Communication is key on a volleyball court.
Las Vegas High’s players, coaches and administrators have learned the hard way that it’s key off the court, too.
The Wildcats, who won their first 10 Northeast League matches this season, have forfeited six of those victories because the team used an ineligible player.
Las Vegas went from a lock to repeat as league champions to having to work and get help just to make the playoffs.
“Things weren’t communicated correctly. It was a misunderstanding,” Las Vegas coach Sue Thurman said. “As soon as we realized an error had been made, we reported it to the (Clark County) school district. I share a part of the blame.”
The player began the season with the team and played through Oct. 2. Based on her second-semester grades from last school year, she was not academically eligible to play.
The district ruled the matches forfeits.
“We asked for all the details and the information, and they provided everything to us,” said Ray Mathis, executive director of athletics for the CCSD. “It appears it was just a lack of communication on their part.”
In all, Las Vegas forfeited nine wins, including one against each of its six Northeast League opponents.
“It was a screw-up on our part,” Las Vegas athletic director Art Plunkett said. “Sue did nothing wrong. It’s not her fault.”
Las Vegas appealed the forfeits to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association. Teams can appeal based on whether or not a player “contributed” to the victory.
“Basically you look to see if she was an integral part of the win,” Mathis said. “You look at when the player entered the game, how long she played, what she did and if she contributed to the win.”
The NIAA denied the appeal this week.
“After reviewing game film and the scoresheets, the individual was the team’s No. 2 server and a contributor in the back row,” NIAA executive director Eddie Bonine said. “She was a part of the regular rotation.”
Las Vegas’ overall record changed from 13-8 to 4-17. The Wildcats went from and 10-0 in the league to 4-6 entering Thursday’s match at Rancho. The Wildcats now are in fifth place in the league.
Rancho took over first place in the Northeast.
“Initially, the girls were completely devastated,” Thurman said. “We’re a very young team, and we’ve worked incredibly hard to get those wins. We talked about this and we’ve decided this would be another learning experience for our team. We totally understood the decision. It is what it is.”
Instead of a first-round home match in the postseason, the Wildcats, if they make the playoffs, will have to travel to either Silverado or Green Valley, two of the top teams in Southern Nevada.
“Regardless of this, we want to attack every match one match at a time,” Thurman said. “One of our goals was to win every league match and we could still do that on the court. On paper we may not win, but on the court, we can.
“If we do still get into the playoffs, that’s great.”