The Crossover Classic is turning 20 years old and 1 year old at the same time.
The 64-team tournament, called “the biggest all-high school tournament on the West Coast” by tournament director Stacey Ward, is now known as the Linda Sheridan Volleyball Classic.
Sheridan, who died April 20 at age 65 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, coached Shadle Park to five state volleyball titles. She and former Lewis and Clark coach Buzzie Welch founded the event, originally called the Greater Spokane League Crossover Classic, in 1994 as an eight-team tourney. LC beat Shadle for the first title.
Ward came up with the idea of renaming the tournament after Sheridan.
“I just thought it was a way to keep her legacy alive,” said Ward, who played for Sheridan at Shadle before coaching Ferris to the state title in 1997.
Ward said this year’s tournament T-shirt features a color scheme that will pay homage to Sheridan.
To further honor Sheridan, the matches for places 1-16, including the title match set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, will be play on Linda Sheridan Court at Shadle.
“I so badly want to win our pool just so we can be at our gym, because it’s going to be so special,” said Brooke Meyer, who succeeded Sheridan as Highlanders coach in 1999. “I think Squat (Sheridan’s nickname) would be smiling at the legacy she left here. It’s a huge honor for her.”
Welch said he’ll “take credit” for coming up with the original idea for the crossover. He said Sheridan lined up sponsorships after the first year, allowing the tournament to ultimately multiply by eight.
One of the tournament’s unique features is that all 64 teams finish with a placing. Welch said that idea came from the Volleyball Festival that has been played in Davis, Calif., Reno, Nev., and Phoenix.
“I try to make sure that no team play teams in their league in pool play,” Ward said. “There are not quite as many small schools as I’ve had before, so overall I think the pools are a little tougher.”
This year’s tournament features 18 teams ranked in the first Washington coaches’ poll, including top-ranked Annie Wright (1A), Colfax (2B) and Tekoa-Oakesdale (1B).
“One of the things I think I appreciated toward the end of my career was the other classifications that started competing,” Welch said. “That was great, because they could use that as a measuring stick. It provided an opportunity for everyone, not just the elite.”
Tourney participants Central Valley, Mead, Auburn Riverside and Skyview are ranked among the top 10 in the 4A poll while University, Kamiakin and Shadle are ranked in the 3A poll.
Shadle’s pool includes 4A Graham-Kapowsin, which defeated the eighth-ranked Highlanders (11-5) 26-24, 27-25 at this year’s Auburn tournament.
Meyer’s experience with the tournament stretches back to almost the inception. She was an assistant coach with Rogers before joining Sheridan’s staff at Shadle in 1997.
Mead (8-3), ranked fifth in 4A, defeated Jackson 25-20, 29-27 for last year’s title. The Panthers are the dominant team in tourney history, winning all six of their championship appearances.
But surprise champions have popped up, including West Valley (Yakima) in 2011 and Class 2A Grandview in 2006.
Other tourney sites this year are LC, Ferris and Rogers. Each site will have three matches at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Saturday’s marathon play begins at 7:30 a.m. at each site.
Tourney officials are hoping to see Welch for the final round at Shadle.
“It’s kind of heartwarming to know that we’ve kind of passed it on to another generation who have picked it up and passed it on,” Welch said. “It’s great for volleyball in the Northwest.”