La Quinta girls' soccer team sidelined by rule interpretation


LA QUINTA, Calif. - The CIF-SS is standing by its interpretation of a rule that has disqualified the La Quinta high school girls' soccer team from the playoffs.  The governing body of high school sports in California determined the Blackhawks violated a rule during their quarterfinal game against St. Margaret's on Friday. "We're heartbroken," said Rachael Polk, a senior captain for the team.  "This was ripped out of our hands by a parent who had no right to do that." 

After the Blackhawks won the game in a dramatic shootout, 4-3, a parent from St. Margaret's in San Juan Capistrano, reported a rules violation to the California Interscholastic Federation.  The parent said, La Quinta senior Brielle Leon was at the game.  Leon, who has signed to play soccer at Michigan State, received a red card in the team's second round game, ejecting her from the game and barring her from the quarterfinal. "The fact that she was in the vicinity of the stadium able to witness that game beneath the scoreboard is a violation of the rule," said CIFSS director of communications Thom Simmons. 

After confirming with La Quinta administrators, the CIF announced the team would forfeit the victory, ending the Blackhawks' season and putting St. Margaret's in the final four.  "Their whole motto with CIF is victory with honor, well this is not victory with honor," said head coach Bobby Quattlebaum.  

The point of contention with the rules violation is that Leon sat under the scoreboard, behind the fence of the stadium.  Technically, on public property. The CIF blue book defines attendance as "being present at the team bench/area, inside a gymnasium, stadium or playing area." "Well, it's not explicit, but not every single rule is explicit," said Simmons.  "There's interpretation like any other laws." 

A tough interpretation for the Blackhawks to understands especially after receiving permission from a referee before the game.  "He came back and when he read the ruling, he even said, no she should be fine where she's at," said Quattlebaum. 

CIF's decision set off a huge response from La Quinta supporters over Twitter.  Each using the hashtag #LetLQPlay.  Leon even posted an e-mail she sent to St. Margaret's head coach pleading with him to reevaluate the action.  CIF says, there's nothing to appeal, because the rule was broken.  It's left Polk and La Quinta's nine seniors with a sour ending to their high school careers, now only hoping others can avoid the same sentiment.  "If it's not that we get to play but that the rule gets changed, that they make it more specific so this doesn't happen again, then that's all I care about," said Polk. 

We left several voicemails and sent several e-mails to St. Margaret's for a comment, but no one responded.  The semifinal is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at 5 P.M.  

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