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Fair or unfair?

Cardinal Gibbons faces St. Thomas Aquinas for the District 9 title tonight. That means it'll be an intense game between two rivals, but it also means one of the top teams in Florida (Gibbons the best, St. Thomas somewhere in the top five) won't go to state -- just like last year, and the year before that.

Which begs the question: Is that OK?

St. Thomas coach Mike DiPierro doesn't think so.

"It's really frustrating," DiPierro said. "I don't know how we got put in the same districts. ... We've been both pretty much like a powerhouse in Broward County [for a while], and I don't know why they would put us all in the same district."

Cardinal Gibbons coach Marcy Meyer -- whose team has won the last three win-or-be-done matchups -- said she doesn't think about it much; she's still just happy to see her sport recognized (which first happened in 2003).

Still, when asked if it's frustrating....

"Yeah, it is," she said, "but we discuss it every year [at the FHSAA]."

To Meyer, that's just the way it is when there isn't much parity across the state. The Orlando area has strong teams, just like Broward. Other regions can't compete, though, but still must be represented at the state tournament.

Meyer thinks creating a 1A and 2A system -- boys' volleyball currently has just one class, like many other newer sports -- might fix the problem. Another solution might be letting the top two in each district advance, like baseball, softball and others (although, Meyer said, that could create a timing issue, since currently only two weeks elapse between the start of districts and the state final).

Still, a shot of perspective came from St. Thomas senior Kevin Garbizo, on the wrong end of the last three elimination games involving Gibbons.

"You should only have one shot to beat them," Garbizo said Wednesday. "No second chances or anything like that. It's fine how it is with the districts, with both of us. Because it brings it more competition. It makes us have to play better to beat them."

In short, no matter which side of the debate you pick, "It's going to be a lot of fun [Thursday]."

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)