Gaels have forced way into poll

February 06, 2003|by DAN KAUFFMAN

It seems I have a habit of getting teams fired up with my rankings.

This school year is the first I've been responsible for placing our area high school volleyball and basketball teams into weekly top-10 lists. It's been an adventure.

In volleyball, Williamsport, Hedgesville, Smithsburg and Thomas Johnson were the four best teams. The Eagles got the No. 1 nod in our first rankings, which I followed up with a column stating that any of the four would be worthy of the top spot.

That didn't sit too well with the Eagles, who cut the column out and put it on the bulletin board. Hedgesville went on to win its first state title.


Cut to basketball, and what I've taken to calling "The Revenge of the Gaels."

On Jan. 24, St. Maria Goretti's boys were unranked in our poll, primarily because of a 10-12 record on the morning the paper came out.

Supporters of the No. 6 Gaels (and there's quite a few) pointed to the tough Baltimore Catholic League schedule. The BCL is always a tough road to travel, with Archbishop Spalding, McDonogh, Towson Catholic, Mount St. Joseph, Cardinal Gibbons, St. Frances and Calvert Hall all top-level squads in the Washington-Baltimore area. But rarely has the league been this tough - in November, Gaels coach Cokey Robertson called it "the toughest I've ever seen."

"The thing is, you don't know the competition level," senior guard Derrick Davis told me Tuesday. "In the BCL, there's 15 or 20 players who are going (NCAA) Division I. In the county, there may be one or two."

My argument remained that a 10-12 record is still a 10-12 record, and it's difficult to justify placing any 10-12 team ahead of any team well above .500.

Ranking teams, however, is never black and white. On Nov. 24, Mercersburg made our poll at No. 10 with a 7-5 record. Goretti had already beaten the Blue Storm twice.

Since that poll, the Gaels played Spalding to within four points, went on the road to defeat Calvert Hall and give Robertson his 700th victory, and then pounded two top area teams - a 68-27 drubbing of then-No. 2 Martinsburg last Wednesday, and a 57-42 win over current No. 2 St. John's at Prospect Hall on Tuesday.

Add in wins over Bishop Walsh and Towson Catholic, and the Gaels are 15-13, with a 6-0 record against area teams and several close losses against out-of-area conference foes who would give all of our area teams trouble.

In essence, Goretti has cemented its impending top-tier spot in the next poll, while teaching me that, on occasion, there's more to a team than their win-loss record.

My only question is, which team will use this column as bulletin board material?

Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7520, or by e-mail at

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