CUMBERLAND — After a little more than an hour on Wednesday afternoon, Cumberland High coach John Jasionowski watched his squad suffer a quick 7-0 loss to Division I power Mount St. Charles Academy.
While most of their matches haven’t been quite as quick, the end result has been status quo for the winless Clippers this fall, owners of an 0-10 mark and last place in I-North. Last year, Cumberland had a similar record in its first season in the state’s toughest division, finishing 2-11 overall.
Jasionowski knows that it’s common for teams to struggle, especially when they’re moved up to a stronger division. But the veteran coach, who has spent nearly 30 years at Cumberland, believes his squad was unfairly boosted to Div. I.
His gripe is the formula that was used by the interscholastic league to determine who moves up and who moves down. The league based the decision, says the coach, on a school’s enrollment and their wins over a four-year period. The final number and ranking was calculated with 40 percent accounting for enrollment and 60 percent on wins, based on a weighted scale, depending on the division. The weighted scale award 1.0 points for each win in Div. I, .60 for Div. II, .36 for Div. III and .22 for Div. IV.
Due to its high enrollment in comparison to other teams in the state and wins over the four-year period, the league forced the Clippers to play in Div. I despite never winning a championship and posting a strong 35-17 record overall in the division.
After losing 10 of his starters from his 2009 squad that posted an 11-2 mark, Jasionowski indicated it didn’t make sense for his team to move up to the higher division with a rebuilding year in the process. But, he says, his words went unheard when stating his case prior to 2010 because of a formula he believes was not fair.
His main argument is the enrollment issue.
“The breakdown, when it comes down to it, is just not equitable. Wins and losses should be the way that they look at it,” he said. “Win-loss record and forget population. Tennis is a weird sport where you have the urban schools that are struggling and the suburban schools and the parochial schools are the ones that should be in Division I and Division II. I am not saying that Cumberland should be in the lowest division, but we are not competitive right now for the girls.”
Seven of the 10 teams that are in Div. I this year are parochial, including the top three – Mount St. Charles (9-1, I-North), Lincoln School (8-1, I-North) and La Salle Academy (8-2, I-South). Cumberland is last among the heap at 0-10. The Clippers have won only five individual matches out of 70 and 13 sets out of 140.
Cumberland’s closest match this fall was a 4-3 setback to Wheeler. In its remaining nine, seven have been shutouts.
Jasionowski admires the effort of his squad, but is frustrated that he essentially knows the outcome before his Clippers even step foot on the court.
“The girls are handling (this season) a lot better than I am,” Jasionowski said. “Competitively, they are playing and they are having fun. But, to me, you can see them struggling with the competition. A lot of these girls take lessons and everything like that, every day. We work hard every day at practice. We don’t slouch. I haven’t given them many days off. They are working hard. We are just doing the best that we can. As I told them, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Little by little we have been doing that. It got to the point where we went to the Wheeler match and almost pulled it out. We are becoming a better team. We are getting stronger. They are playing with their partners a lot better than what they did at the beginning of the season. But still, the season is over and seven girls are graduating, so we are starting all over again.”
Jasionowski indicated that the interest has also dropped in his program the last two years. He had just 22 finish tryouts this season and has 20 on his squad.
“Generally we have 28-30 girls on the team,” he said. “We’ve had up to 40 come out to the tryouts. We are begging for girls to come out; whereas before I was calling them and saying, ‘Look, you don’t have any experience playing tennis, come out next year.’ I was kind of getting them not to come out because there was just so many of them. They were all over the place. Now it’s a complete reversal.
“I am struggling to get girls to come out for tennis because now they know we are in Division I and we are getting killed,” he continued. “They know it’s not going to be much fun getting destroyed every year.”
The way Jasionowski looks at it, it may not get any better when the newest realignment comes up at the end of the season. The league will now base its decision on the last eight years with the final number based on 30 percent population and 70 percent on wins during that period.
Currently, the Clippers are ranked No. 5. Even if it goes winless this fall, it still could be among the top 10 or 12 teams in the league, a number that would constitute the amount of schools in Div. I.
“If we got 0-13 that will replace a year we went 11-2,” he said. “It might make a difference, but they are still looking at eight years where I was in Division II most of the time. We will have to wait and see.”
After getting a glance at most of the teams in the league, Jasionowski predicts the Div. I finals will feature Mount St. Charles against the Lincoln School. The Lnyx are the only team to put a blemish on the Mounties’ record. The two teams will face each other in their respective league finales on Monday at Faxon Farm.
Jasionowski gives the edge right now to the Lincoln School.
“(Mount’s) good, but I think Lincoln School is even better,” he said. “Lincoln School is better than them and they have to play them again at the end of the season. (Mount’s) better than La Salle, it beat La Salle. Lincoln School beat them and was missing its No. 1 player. They have a strong 1-2-3-4 punch with three Cumberland girls.”