On Monday, April 30, the Florida High School Athletic Association Board of Directors announced a decision that declared the Lake Mary girls' water polo team the winner in Saturday’s controversial regional final against Winter Park. The following day, after an appeal hearing by Winter Park High, the Board reaffirmed its stand in an unanimous 9-0 vote to uphold FHSAA Executive Director George Tomyn and his staff's decision.
The decision was the culmination of days of confusion following a dramatic triple-over time that saw the Wildcats squeak out a 7-6 win — or so it seemed.
Before the Wildcats had the chance to look forward to a state semi-final showdown with Lake Nona this Friday afternoon in Miami, the FHSAA dropped a bombshell this past Monday by announcing that they were reversing the victory.
According to Lake Mary athletic director Doug Peters, while an email was sent to FHSAA water polo administrator Frank Beasley in regard to a feeling that the officials made a mistake relating to overtime rules, the school never filed an actual protest of any kind. The situation was brought up to Peters when coach Paige Baker informed him that prior to Saturday's first overtime, she raised concern during the captain's meeting about the officials utilizing the wrong overtime format.
In state playoff games that go to overtime, the FHSAA uses sudden death overtime — meaning that the first team to score wins.
Instead of using sudden death OT, the game’s officials mistakenly followed the National Federation of State High School Association’s rulebook, which calls for two 3-minute overtime periods followed by a sudden death period if the need arose. The conditions were met with approval from both Winter Park coach Barry Creighton and Lake Mary's Paige Baker.
Both teams went into the first overtime tied at 4-4, with Lake Mary scoring the first goal in overtime to make it 5-4 — which they argued that if the right rules had been used, would have been a victory for them right there.
Instead the game played on as the Wildcats would rally back, with McCarron Evans scoring what would be the game winning goal in the third overtime.
Those late game heroics now, thanks to the ruling of the FHSAA, are null and void — despite the arguments made during the appeal hearing on Tuesday.
OCPS Attorney John Palmerini was among a few individuals who argued that there was no need to overturn the Wildcats’ win, as both coaches had agreed to terms.
He also quoted the FHSAA’s own administrative procedure rule book — specifically clause 1.6.1, which deals directly with protests. The clause states:
“Protests of interscholastic contests shall not be allowed,” states the clause. “The decision of the officials shall be final. The outcome (i.e. winners and losers) of all interscholastic contests are final, and cannot be reversed, except where the rules of the sport permit or in the case where a winner must forfeit its victory or points.”
Regardless of the arguments made, the decision by Tomyn and his staff remains final as the frustrating loss puts a sour end to a stellar season for the Wildcats, who finished with a strong 18-4 record (6-0 in district).