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I don’t usually cover volleyball and I don’t know the Lake George players. But I’ve spent a lot of time the last couple of days thinking about athletes who have their season axed for something they had no control over.

It raises a lot of difficult questions. Some of the obvious ones, like why and how it happened, have been asked and answered. But there is also the matter of how Lake George’s situation came to the attention of Section II officials.

Section II Executive Director Ed Dopp said the complaint about Lake George having played too many matches was lodged very recently, and that it was brought by another school. He would not name the school.

It leaves open the possibility that someone waited until the season was over and then sank a potential opponent by reporting the violation. I can only hope that wasn’t the case.

Two days later, I’m still trying to sort out my thoughts about what happened earlier this week, when Lake George was declared ineligible for the Section II tournament for playing more matches than state rules allow.

It is a terrible price to pay, and it’s not the first time it’s happened. Despite regular warnings from state officials, this happens to a team somewhere in the state about once a year. Lake George argued that one of its games was actually a scrimmage, but that claim is hard to defend when it appears as a game on their own schedule and the results were submitted to the newspaper.

I think I understand where state officials are coming from on mandating such a draconian punishment.

Whatever alternate punishment you propose — fines, suspensions, lower seeding — there will be people who would take advantage of it. They would skirt the rules and risk the punishment to give their team an advantage. Sadly, that thinking still exists in some quarters. Anything to get an edge, and all that jazz.

I don’t know what you gain by playing an extra volleyball match, but the rule has been on the books for a couple of decades and the consequences have been made clear.

There is another issue here regarding scrimmages. Lots of teams load up on these and sometimes they don’t look a lot different from a game. If playing too many games is a concern, then playing lots of scrimmages ought to be a concern, too.

But let’s get back to the punishment.

I started writing this column 24 hours ago with the idea that I would back the Section II decision, because a rule is a rule. But I can’t. I can’t find words that justify destroying a team’s season over an improper schedule. I can’t accept that there isn’t some other way to enforce this.

I’m sure Lake George’s players will handle this in an exemplary manner, and they’ll get backing from the local volleyball community. There have already been statements of support on social media. But, of course, that won’t make up for the chance to win a title on the court.

I hope everyone out there running high school sports — specifically coaches and athletic directors — is paying close attention to this. I hope they are re-reading rule books, re-counting numbers, communicating about schedules and making sure this doesn’t happen at their school.

Maybe the news of what happened at Lake George will save another set of student-athletes from having their dreams stolen away. It’s about the only positive thing that can come out of this situation.

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Contact Sports Editor Greg Brownell via email at brownell@poststar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @glensfallsse.

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