Big changes are coming in the high school sports state tournament landscape for the 2021-22 school year.

The MIAA is going to state wide tournaments for all sports, eliminating sectionals, in 2021-22 and has to re-align divisions as a result. Last week, the MIAA's Tournament Management Committee approved the alignment for soccer, basketball and field hockey, which will lead to changes for Cape Ann schools in the fall of 2021. Volleyball was also re-aligned but Gloucester, Rockport and Manchester Essex do not have a varsity volleyball program.

The alignments were unanimously approved by the Tournament Management Committee, schools will be allowed to appeal their placement and must file by December 21, 2020. 

Soccer and basketball have expanded from four to five divisions.

In basketball, all three Cape Ann schools will be changing divisions. The Gloucester boys and girls have been competing in Division 2, and will do so this winter, but the teams will be shifting to Division 3 when the state wide tournament comes into play. Manchester Essex, which has been competing in Division 3 in recent years, will be moving to Division 4. Rockport will be competing in the newly formed Division 5.

Soccer does not bring a lot of change for any of the local schools. Gloucester will stay put in Division 3, while Manchester Essex will remain in Division 4. Rockport, however, will be moving into Division 5.

The biggest change has come in field hockey. There are currently just two divisions in the sport, but the MIAA has opted to double that to four divisions starting in 2021-22. That means changes in divisions for all three local schools, which all competed in Division 2 previously.

Gloucester will now be setting up shop in Division 3 while Manchester Essex and Rockport will be in Division 4. These changes are particularly interesting for Gloucester and Manchester Essex, which have established themselves as two of the best Division 2 programs in the north section. The good news for Manchester Essex is that it will no longer have to contend with Watertown in the postseason as it will be in Division 3 with Gloucester. 

Qualifying for the state tournament will also be different. Currently, teams with a record of .500 or better qualify while some smaller schools can get into the postseason with a sub .500 record via the Sullivan rule if it has an above .500 record against teams within its own division.

Starting in 2021-22, every sport will be ranked via MaxPreps.com and the top 32 ranked teams in each division will qualify for the state tournament, regardless of record. 

This is a big help to schools like Rockport and Manchester Essex, which regularly play against larger schools in the Cape Ann League. That strength of schedule will help both school's state tournament standings. 

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