The EIVA Tournament will be more difficult for teams to make starting in 2012.
The EIVA voted at its annual league meeting to reduce its conference tournament from seven to four teams next season.
“This puts an emphasis on the regular season,” Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said. “You got to be at your best through the EIVA regular season schedule to be in the top four and hopefully that creates competition among the eight teams.”
The EIVA’s decision to change its conference tournament structure comes after three schools — Springfield, NYU and Juniata — announced it would leave the 11-team conference following the 2011 season to become inaugural members of the NCAA Division III men’s volleyball league.
In previous seasons the EIVA Tournament consisted of the top five teams from the EIVA Tait Division, the top-tier division in the conference, and the top two teams from the EIVA Hay Division. The first-place team in the Tait Division also a received bye until the conference semifinals.
Pavlik said the changes in the amount of EIVA teams made it necessary for the league to re-eveluate its conference tournament structure. He also said the EIVA coaches like this new format because it will make the regular season more exciting with teams having to compete to get into the playoffs.
“I’d rather have teams go to the playoffs than have the playoffs go to the teams,” Pavlik said.
Of the three Division I-II men’s volleyball conference tournaments, the EIVA will have be the smallest tournament. The MPSF Tournament, a 12-team conference, is comprised of the top eight teams in the conference standings at the end of the regular season, while the MIVA Tournament is comprised of all seven teams.
Despite the amount of teams in the EIVA Tournament, the EIVA regular season champion will continue to host the conference tournament.
The Nittany Lions have hosted every EIVA Tournament since 1999. Penn State defeated Springfield in the EIVA championship in April to win its 13th consecutive conference title and advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Along with the conference tournament changes, the EIVA voted at its league meetings to eliminate the Hayes Division and Tait Division for the upcoming season. The eight teams will be in one division and play each other twice, once at home and once on the road, during the regular season.
This change will increase the EIVA’s conference schedule from 10 matches to 14 matches. The additional conference matches will also result in fewer non-conference matches that EIVA teams can schedule in order to remain within the NCAA limits for the maximum amount of matches allowed per season.
Pavlik said more conference matches will change the way some EIVA teams schedule non-conference matches in 2012. The Nittany Lions coach said there is a chance it could limit the amount of matches Penn State plays against some of its traditional non-conference opponents like Loyola, Lewis, Ball State and IPFW.
Penn State in recent years typically has played Ball State and IPFW twice per season and Lewis and Loyola once per season.
“Every one of our programs struggles with how to put out a diverse schedule year to year,” Pavlik said. “It just makes it a little tougher when you have fewer dates allowed.”