The Falmouth High girls’ lacrosse team celebrates after winning the Class A state championship in 2019. This spring, all teams will get to participate in the postseason, regardless of win-loss record. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The Maine Principals’ Association will be returning to an open tournament concept, with every team eligible for the postseason during the 2021 spring sports season.

That news was included in the spring sports bulletins which were sent out to schools throughout the state on Wednesday. In a normal season, 67 percent of all teams in a particular enrollment class qualify for the MPA’s postseason tournaments. But the coronavirus pandemic has made this school year anything but normal.

After the 2020 spring season was canceled at the onset of the pandemic, the fall and winter seasons of the 2020-21 school year were both modified, without any postseason tournaments. On March 12, the MPA announced that the spring season would begin on time and would include postseason play.

Heal points will continue to be used to seed the teams for the playoffs. Teams may opt out of the tournament.

MPA Executive Director Mike Burnham said it will be a one-time only return to the open tournament, last used from 2000-02. He said representatives of all spring sports that use Heal points recommended using the open tourney format.

“Every committee, independent of each other but working together, said it made sense this year,” said Burnham. “It made sense this year to give everyone a chance and not punish anyone because of their schedule and the number of games they played.”

Athletic directors agreed that it made sense to open the tournaments up again, given the current circumstances.

“We had a feeling that was going to happen,” said Kennebunk Athletic Director Joe Schwartzman. “That way, if a school gets shut down for a week or 10 days and if it can’t make up those games … it won’t affect them for the playoffs.”

And especially this spring, he added, “You never know what’s going to happen.”

South Portland Athletic Director Todd Livingston said the open tournament will allow schools to be more flexible in their scheduling, providing more opportunities for cross-scheduling with other conferences. Schools will be allowed to play an opponent three times if needed.

“Schools might run into a situation where they have to quarantine and lose games,” he said. “We all know it could be tricky this spring, especially with transportation. But if a school loses games because of the weather or quarantine, it’s not going to hurt them.”

In baseball and softball, the maximum number of games is 16; in lacrosse, the maximum is 12. Tennis teams can play 12 matches.

Each school’s Heal point divisor will be based on the number of games played. There will be no minimum number of games in the spring season if games are lost because of COVID-19.

Dean Plante, the athletic director at Old Orchard Beach, said if the MPA was going to hold tournaments, “this was the only way to do it.”

He added after losing the 2020 spring season, it will take pressure off players who missed that season of development.

“It just makes sense,” he said. “You just never know how many games you’re going to get with the whole COVID thing.”


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