There have been more than a few puzzled faces in the stands during this fall's Steamboat Springs volleyball matches.
While most of the fans are quick learners when it comes to the ins and outs of the new rally scoring system, it's hard to adjust to one of the biggest changes in high school volleyball in more than a decade.
Don't take my word for it -- just head down to the gym for the next Sailors game and listen to the people who walk through the doors a few minutes late.
Gone are the days of three-game matches and the sideout. These days, teams can score any time a player touches the ball; most matches consist of 25 points (the fourth and fifth games are shortened to 15 points); and despite the name, rallying from a deficit seems to have become more difficult under the new system. The games go faster, and the matches tend to run a bit longer.
Athletics directors and coaches are calling special meetings to figure out how many games junior varsity teams will play and how many games will be in a match at the state championships in November.
Of course, there will be details to iron out when there is a change like this one, but I would have hoped that someone would have figured these things out before the start of the season.
With that said, the truth is that the rally scoring system tends to keep the game moving a lot faster and rewards teams that are playing great offense and great defense.
By October, any wrinkles will be ironed out and fans will be enjoying a new breed of volleyball where solid defense and mistakes could spell the difference between winning and losing -- not just staying in the game.
The coaches and players have welcomed the new system the same way they would greet a favorite long-lost relative.
The Steamboat players seemed excited about playing in the new format, which is nothing new at the club level. Their opinion remained the same after holding off Moffat County on Tuesday 25-15, 27-25 and 25-23.
It's as if someone added a shot of caffeine to a sport that already was hitting all cylinders.
Volleyball always has been one of the most fast-paced, emotional sports of the fall, but thanks to the new system, it's moving faster than a funny car at Bandimere Speedway.
So if you haven't been to a volleyball match this season (the next one is Sept. 25 against Glenwood Springs) you should expect a few changes when you walk into the gym.
Sure the level of intensity will remain the same -- it always does with coach Wendy Hall's teams -- but there will be a few more points, a few more games and a new sense of excitement as high school volleyball enters a new era.
-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot .com