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Eight SF teams enter state high school volleyball tournament. See where they’re headed

Balboa's Yaya Siolo (24) spikes during the first set of the Buccaneers' loss to Lowell in San Francisco on Oct. 25, 2022. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

Brackets for the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Volleyball Tournament were released on Sunday, and eight San Francisco schools are included in the field.

The tournament is split into Northern and Southern regionals, with the regional champions to meet at Santiago Canyon College in Orange County to decide the state championships on Nov. 19. Teams are spread across six different divisions, with the top eight teams in each region assigned to the Open Division. The remaining teams are split into 16-team brackets.

The 16-team brackets, labeled as Divisions I through V, were traditionally split up by enrollment, but with different sections using different enrollment cutoffs, the state eschewed that format in favor of a “competitive equity” model, beginning in 2017. While the equity format did away with some flaws, such as tiny rural schools being grouped with small elite private school powers in Division V, it opened up a new can of worms. For example, the eighth-ranked team in each region is the last seed in the Open Division, and goes on the road to face the top team in its entire half of the state. The ninth-ranked team gets the top seed in Division I and has home court throughout the tournament.

Liana Mei (28) sets a ball during the third set of St. Ignatius' five-set victory over Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco on Oct. 6, 2022. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

Both of San Francisco’s West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) powers are in Division I. St. Ignatius (15-17) has a sub-.500 record for the season, but has faced a loaded schedule. In turn, SI was seeded ninth, and will travel to No. 8 Marin Catholic (24-10) on Tuesday night for a battle of Wildcats. Marin Catholic swept a regular season meeting on Sept. 9, but SI played that match without star junior Suraya Newman.

Sacred Heart Cathedral (21-11) won the Central Coast Section (CCS) Division III Championship on Saturday, toppling top-seeded Santa Cruz in four sets, but received the unenviable 14th seed in Division I for the state playoffs. The Fightin’ Irish will cross the Altamont Pass on Tuesday to visit No. 3 St. Mary’s-Stockton (24-8). Under old formats, SHC would likely have hosted a first-round match as a section champion. Competitive equity doesn’t guarantee such privileges to teams that win section tournaments.

The University Red Devils celebrate a point during the third set of their loss to Branson in the North Coast Section Division 3 Championship Game in Ross on Nov. 5, 2022. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

University (25-6) fell on the good side of one of the cutoffs between divisions and was seeded second in Division II. The Red Devils host Buchanan-Clovis (28-16) on Tuesday, and they wouldn’t need to play on the road unless they face top-seeded Clovis North in a Northern California Championship.

Division IV is full of San Francisco teams, with three in one half of the bracket. Urban (18-8) won the North Coast Section (NCS) Division 5 crown on Saturday night, defeating Bay in four sets. The Blues are the top Northern California Division IV seed and will host Orland (22-10) on Tuesday. It’ll take the Trojans three hours to make the trip from Glenn County.

Lowell's Chelsea Yuen (15) sets for Monika Brinlee (21) during the first set of the Cardinals' victory over Balboa in San Francisco on Oct 25, 2022. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

An all-San Francisco second round matchup is possible if the Blues win and if No. 8 Lowell (24-12) handles No. 9 Ripon Christian (30-6) as well. Academic Athletic Association (AAA) runner-up Balboa (26-6) is also in the upper half of the bracket; the Buccaneers are seeded 12th and will hit the road to take on No. 5 Sutter (28-5-1). Bay (20-4) is the 14th seed and will travel to Tuolumne County to face No. 3 Sonora (26-6).

No San Francisco teams are in Division III or Division V, but there is a little-known Northern California Division VI tournament for the smallest of small schools. San Francisco Waldorf (14-4) is the second seed in this six-team, Northern California-only bracket, and will face the winner of Forest Lake Christian-Auburn (27-4) and North Hills Christian-Vallejo (22-3).

All Tuesday matches are scheduled for 6 p.m., while the Open Division, headlined by top seed St. Francis (31-0), plays on Wednesday. Divisions I-V play regional quarterfinals on Thursday and semifinals on Saturday. Regional championships are slated for Tuesday, Nov. 15. Updated brackets are available at