Monarchs posted a 1-5 record against Division I opponents in non-league contests over the past two seasons
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
PORTERVILLE – The movement of the Exeter Monarchs’ volleyball team up to Division I for the 2019 season headlines the changes of the recently released CIF Central Section preliminary division realignments.
The competitive equality model the section uses for divisional, along with league, realignments is based off an accumulative point system. In the case of the divisional movements these points are acquired during the playoff season only. Besides winning the Valley Championship, teams earn points by winning a playoff game, being seeded high enough to host a playoff game, upsetting a higher-seeded opponent, just to name a few. At the end of a two year stretch the committee of area supervisors determines who to move up or down based on the totals.
Exeter’s two title runs in 2017 and 2018 carried with them 52 points each season for a total of 104 points. At the end of the two year stretch they had the highest point total of any Division II team which prompted the move to Division I.
Exeter can appeal the decision before the vote which is set to happen in April. Exeter can argue their record against opponents from the division they are being placed is poor, or with the number of seniors the team is losing to graduation.
If the Monarchs were to appeal the decision head coach Samantha Hilvers is confident, they would check every requirement and remain down at Division II. However, if the Monarchs were to remain at Division II and win their first playoff game of the 2019 season, they would be automatically bumped to Division I the following year, a scenario Hilvers is very confident could happen.
“Let’s get moved up and see what happens,” Hilvers said. “Give the girls a chance to rise to the occasion instead of telling them their little Exeter.”
Under Hilvers, the Monarchs have seen a resurgence to championship form with three straight Division II title appearances including, their first back-to-back championships in more than ten years. The emphasis to schedule Division I teams might be the reason for Exeter’s return to the top. Exeter had a total of 24 contacts with Division I opponents in both non-league and tournaments. In those contests they went 12-12 with some notable wins including, a 2-0 win over the then reigning Open Division State Champions Archbishop Mitty Monarchs.
“We’ve beaten Division I opponents in tournaments, so we’ve shown we can compete,” Hilvers said.
While tournament wins are notable, they’re competed in a shorter three set format. Exeter will have to go toe-to-toe with the same caliber opponents in full five set matches, and in those games over the past two seasons their record is 1-5. Their lone win came last season over the Clovis East Timberwolves 3-0.
Hilvers is adamant that against Central and Clovis West, two perpetual contenders in Division I, they hung close. But Exeter was on the wrong side of both of those matches, only winning one set in the process.
Even those outcomes were with Exeter’s most recent offensive standout, Fresno Pacific Sunbirds signee Corinne Acosta, on the team. Now that they have lost her to graduation it’s a mystery who will fill her shoes.
In all, Exeter is losing six seniors. Hilvers says it is too early to begin to think about who will possibly replace key positions at outside hitter and libero. One key returner could be Julia Nelsen. She scored 205 kills, 64 blocks, and 37 aces as a junior last season.
“It is way too early to begin talking about who we have coming back,” Hilvers said. “It could be a returner or an underclassman.”
Currently Exeter does have some players competing for club teams around the Valley. That extra time on the court should help get them ready for what could shape up to be the toughest season any Exeter team has ever seen.
If Exeter is lifted to D-I the Monarchs will be the highest divisional opponent of the Central Sequoia League. Only the Central Valley Christian Cavaliers are currently at Division II, and the rest of the five teams are spread out from Division III to Division V.
“I hope some of the teams play higher than their division,” Hilvers said.
If the other CSL teams do not compete at a higher level than it could hurt Exeter’s playoff seeding, regardless of whether they win their third straight title or not. It could mean Exeter would receive a lower seed and be matched up with one of the powerhouse programs.
“It is such a disservice to programs who are dominant,” Hilvers said.