Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

It's almost almost here

I wouldn't say the fall sports season has started just yet, nor would I say we're on the eve of it just yet. But we're on the eve of the eve. Football practice kicks off Monday, girls' golf hits the links Thursday, with everybody else having their first official practice the 13th, the same day Saline's girls' golf team gets things officially started with a tournament in Mason.

I have two reactions to that news, the first being that I am more than ready to get the high school sports party started. We haven't had football since early last November, haven't had volleyball since March, and though I know it might not be everyone's cup of tea, we haven't had a good exciting cross country race since last October. It's time.

Then again, where on earth did the summer go? Obviously, it hasn't quite gone yet--it is a solid 96 degrees outside as I write this--but cripes, we were turning out the lights on the track season and the baseball quarterfinals just last week, weren't we?

In any case, this week's "Fun and Games" column listed a few of the big stories we're going to be keeping a very close eye on here at the Reporter and News-Leader in honor of the impending season. The following aren't stories, but they are a few relevant thoughts that might have made the column if the column had been twice as long:

1. The football teams need to be ready in a hurry. As Brian discussed this week, Milan has replaced yearly opening-week ... how do I put this nicely ... "very likely win" Ypsilanti-Lincoln with Ionia, a team that hasn't done any worse than 7-4 since 2002. Between these guys and Chelsea, Milan may have the most difficult non-conference schedule in the area, arguably aside from ... Saline, who will still face the Railsplitters in Week 2. But they open at Flint Carman-Ainsworth, who they beat in Ypsilanti last year as part of the Big Day Prep Showdown. FCA has lost some key, NCAA Division I-quality players since then, but of course, so has Saline. And it will be very different traveling to Flint than taking the ten-minute ride to EMU.

2. Both area volleyball teams will benefit from the season switch more than their competition. I'm not sure how clear I really made it in my article today on Milan making the switch, so let me expound a bit here. Milan is a stronger program than they were a few years ago, but they're still definitely more in the "building" stage than the "maintaining" stage. Saline had an SEC champion team last year, one of their strongest in a few seasons. But they lost five seniors, four of them key members (the fifth, Emily Lloyd, was lost to injury early in the year). They've got tons of talent, but there may be some growing pains here or there.

So what both teams need is more practice time, more development time, more time to work on their games. Having the summer immediately ahead of the season (rather than basketball) helps with that, but of course it helps every team. But because there may be more room for improvement for Milan and Saline than for their league rivals, it will help them more. Think of it this way: for almost every skill, the better you are, the harder it is to improve. It's easier to go from hitting 50 percent of your free throws to 80 percent, for instance, than it is from 80 to 90, easier to go from being a good cook to opening a restaurant than from opening the restaurant to getting five stars. While other, more experienced volleyball teams might already be about as good as they're going to be, Milan and Saline can still use their extra time to take greater strides--and if there's more talent than their opponents to start with, those strides might just takle them where they want to go.

3. Me personally, I'm glad girls' basketball is now a winter sport. I totally understand why so many players, coaches, fans, etc. were opposed to the season switch. I nunderstand why some were for it. But for someone who grew up elsewhere, girls' basketball--any basketball--in the fall never felt quite right. Football, basketball, and baseball (no offense to all the other sports and with the understanding this was back in those unfortunate times when girls' sports were nonexistent) were the first three major sports in high schools and those were the three sports the high school athletic calendar was originally built around: football in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring. Having never seen hoops played in the fall before, watching basketball one night and then football the next just felt ... awkward. This is why I think girls' basketball won't suffer for moving to winter: I think I'm not the only one who feels this way, and I think more fans will be in the mood for basketball, any basketball, played by either gender, in the winter than when the football's still flying around outside.

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