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Realignment, playoff changes approved by section
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The ever-changing Valley Oak League will undergo another transformation, and Ripon Christian will leave behind familiar foes the Trans Valley League come 2010 after the Sac-Joaquin Section Board of Managers approved a realignment proposal Wednesday at Elkhorn Country Club in Stockton.

The board also voted to overhaul the current postseason formats for football, baseball, softball, soccer and tennis — a hot topic that coincided with the realignment process that started with the first proposal on Jan. 7. The new playoff formats will take into effect next fall.

Manteca Unified’s five high schools — East Union, Lathrop, Manteca, Sierra and Weston Ranch — will remain in the VOL along with Oakdale and Sonora.

Kimball, set to open in Tracy next year, will be ushered in during its first varsity season. Lathrop debuts at the varsity level in 2009-10, but some sports will play an independent schedule until the new alignment takes shape.

Current Division-I schools Tracy, West, Buhach Colony and Pitman have come and gone since the mid-1990s.

Ceres, one of the league’s original six schools when it was formed in 1947, and rival Central Valley joined the VOL in 2006.  They will bolt for the Western Athletic Conference.

Orestimba leaves the WAC and heads to the TVL, to make way for the additions of the Ceres schools, Los Banos and Pacheco — the city of Los Banos’ second school that opens in 2010-11. Central Catholic, Patterson and Livingson are the WAC’s incumbents.

The realignment breaks up the Ripon-Ripon Christian rivalry in the TVL. Hilmar returns to the conference along with Orestimba, joining current members Escalon, Modesto Christian, Hughson and Riverbank.

Ripon Christian expects a hit in transportation costs as it joins the Southern League, but the move should make the school of roughly 240 students more competitive in sports such as football — a recent addition to the athletic program that has drawn little turnout since its inception in 2003.

Schools in the SL include Delhi, Denair, Gustine, Le Grand, Mariposa Turlock Christian and Waterford.

The new playoff format in football, which will add 20 berths from its current 58 across seven divisions, could pit Ripon against one of the area VOL teams in the postseason.

Thirty-two teams qualify through automatic and at-large bids from the Division III and IV leagues. Teams from the 16 largest schools in the pool will compete in the Division III playoffs, and Division IV will be split into two separate brackets based on enrollment. The bracket “A” and “B” winners will meet for the D-IV championship.

The section currently uses predetermined brackets, with leagues allotted a certain number of berths, which has led to undeserving teams advancing over more successful ones along with the occasional finals-worthy matchup in earlier rounds. The new format will seed teams based on wins and total victories of opponents.

The section will also no longer use predetermined brackets in baseball, softball, soccer and tennis starting next year. The VOL will stay in Division IV, and TVL in Division V.

For baseball, softball and soccer, three teams in each of the six leagues in Division IV and V qualify for the playoffs. Outbracket games will be played at home sites to round out the seeded eight-team brackets.

In boys and girls tennis, three teams from each league advance to the Division I and II playoffs, creating brackets of up to 24 teams. Outbracket matches will be played between second- and third-place teams.

The Division III co-ed tournament will consist of 18-team brackets and outbracket matches.