Emergency appeal from Lemont school denied after volleyball team disqualified over extra match

Matt_Brown/Getty Images

The Illinois High School Association denied an emergency appeal from Lemont High School Wednesday after their girls' volleyball team was disqualified hours before play began in the IHSA State Series due to playing an extra match during the regular season.

John Young, the school's athletic director, took responsibility for the scheduling error that resulted in the disqualification.

A letter requesting the emergency hearing was sent on Tuesday evening, alleging that the school was only notified of the disqualification hours before the beginning of regional competition, leaving no time for athletes or school administrators to appeal the decision.

The emergency appeal alleges that the IHSA allowed a "last-minute challenge" to a team's eligibility that delivered a "severe and improper consequence" that left no time for an appeal process described in IHSA by-laws.

The appeal argues that the abrupt end of the season for Lemont girls' volleyball and its impact on student-athletes runs contrary to the association's values, while saying that the punishment for the extra match scheduled should be a suspension of coaches and/or administrators.

"This error was completely beyond the control of the athletes," the appeal read. "The consequence of disqualifying the team penalizes the athletes and not the administrators who are responsible for the error. In addition, the severe consequences do not match the infraction."

Lemont's girls' volleyball team was seeded first in their sectional prior to regional competition beginning, holding a 27-9 record and winning the program's ninth consecutive South Suburban Conference title.

Young issued the following statement Tuesday evening:

“I am heartbroken for our players, coaches, and families. Understandably, they are very upset, and they have every right to be. Our student-athletes did nothing wrong. I am very sorry our players are forced to pay for my mistake. This was an inadvertent scheduling oversight, and not an intentional act made in an effort to subvert IHSA rules," Young said.

IHSA’s Contest Limitation by-law prohibits member schools from playing more than 35 matches exclusive of the IHSA State Series.

During the regular season, Lemont played 17 standalone matches and four tournaments, according to school officials. Due to Lemont's advancements in some of the tournaments, they had played 19 matches within those four tournaments.

Lemont's season finale on Oct. 18 against Chicago Christian, a non-conference matchup and their 36th of the regular season, pushed the school over the allowable number of regular season matches.

The IHSA issued the following statement after the emergency appeal hearing in Bloomington Wednesday afternoon:

“The season limitation by-law exists in every IHSA sport in order to provide competitive equity among the schools as they enter into competition in the IHSA State Series. As unfortunate as the result may be, these teams received a competitive advantage that no other team in the tournament received, and there is over 40 years of precedence dictating that violating this rule excludes a team from State Series participation. Neither myself, the IHSA staff, nor the IHSA Board of Directors derive any joy in delivering this decision, but we are tasked with upholding the rules our member schools put into place," IHSA Assistant Executive Director Matt Troha said.

Lemont High School issued a statement following the decision, announcing that the school was considering legal action.

"At 2 p.m. on Wednesday, October 25, the Illinois High School Association Board of Directors conducted an emergency appeal hearing to reconsider the IHSA's declaration that the Lemont High School girls' volleyball team is ineligible to participate in the IHSA State Series.

The IHSA Board of Directors listened to our appeal, posed some questions, and entered into a closed session for discussion. Unfortunately, our appeal was denied.

We are pursuing available legal options, and are making every effort possible to give our student-athletes the chance to compete in the IHSA State Series."

The IHSA added that three other Illinois high school girls' volleyball teams had been disqualified from the IHSA State Series for the same violation.

Lemont was forced to forfeit their regional matchup against Back of the Yards of Chicago, which is recorded as a 25-0 victory for Back of the Yards.

Contact Us