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Girls HS Championships Split

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Girls HS Championships Split

A Crusaders vs. Spartans rematch is a thing of the past. (Photo pulled from CMH captain Ellie Metz's essay featured in Penn Mutual's "Life Lessons in Sports" contest.)

The National High School Girls Invitational Championship is following the boys’ lead, and dividing along club and single-school lines for 2016. The effort is being driven by Divine Savior Holy Angels coach John Klein and Catholic Memorial coach John Waliszewski, who are founding members of the invitational’s management group, the National Girls Coaches Committee (NGCC).

Klein and Waliszewski want to bring parity to the pitch and account for the limitations that single-school teams face in terms of player pool. Club teams can draw from several schools in a community, while single-school teams draw from its student population. The pair feel that that advantage is reflected at nationals: Since 2010, only one finalist (Lakewood) has been a single-school, while all six titles have gone to club teams. 11.25 Correction: Five-time reigning champion Fallbrook is a club team, but only since 2015.

2015 was also the best year for club teams. Fallbrook (Calif.) and Kent (Wash.) advanced to the final, and the former won its fifth-straight title. Three-year-old Danville (Calif.) made its third appearance at nationals and finished a record-high 3rd. Also young in terms of existence, Pleasanton (Calif.) went from 2014 DII champ to 5th in DI, and could probably be considered 4th-best after its one-point, overtime loss to Kent in the opening round of nationals last year. The only two single-schools in DI were DSHA, which finished fourth after five years of finishing third, and St. Joseph’s from Ohio. Catholic Memorial finished second in DII to first-year entrant South Bay (Calif.).

Among concerns for the split, there’s question as to whether girls high schools can support two separate competitions. Rugby may be the fastest growing sport in the U.S., but how many teams are playing at a level that deserves national recognition? The invitational has always struggled to bring eight top teams into the DI bracket. Additionally, there isn’t countrywide buy-in. Colorado and Tennessee have stopped competing at the national level; Oregon abstains; and there was a surprising absence of East Coast teams at last year’s Pittsburgh event. Not even the Pennsylvania state champion attended.

Waliszewski and Klein are working to answer those questions and are reaching out to individual programs in Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, among others, that have distinguished themselves in-state but yet to break into the national tournament. They’re also working on luring teams like Summit High School back into the fold.

This week, the coaches notified interested parties that the 2016 venue will either be at Lindenwood University (St. Charles, Mo.) or the Moose Grounds (Elkhart, Ind.), and are currently polling teams for their availability on May 20-21, 2016.

It doesn’t appear that the entire NGCC is involved at this juncture. Klein indicated that the group will be conferencing on Tuesday, and that’s when the chairman will lay out plans for the single-school championship. He said he’d be happy for the club championship to occur alongside the single-school event, but implied that that decision lies with the NGCC’s club coaches (Craig & Marin Pinnell, Rex Norris, Stephen Lopez, Anthony Sasso).

We’ll check in with the club coaches next week for their reaction and hopefully update on plans for the club championship. In the meantime, if you’re a single school interested in nationals next May, then contact John Waliszewski ( or John Klein (