Maybe I'm looking at things with new eyes this time around.
I didn't have the same appreciation for how difficult it is to get out of Section II during my first stint as a sports writer here from 2006 until 2009.
But if you looked at some of the results that have come across our email from regional play this past weekend, it might raise a few of your eyebrows as well.
Let's start with the one local team that remains. The Johnstown volleyball team was one of three Section II teams to compete in the regional finals Saturday at the State University of New York at Canton. The Lady Bills blew Massena out of the gymnasium with a resounding 3-0 sweep to clinch their second straight trip to the state championships at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Saturday and Sunday.
They weren't the only ones. In Class C, Voorheesville won its match over Salmon River and Hartford topped Chateaugay in Class D to complete a Section II sweep.
And it's not just volleyball.
In football, all five Section II teams have moved on to the state semifinals. Three of the five Section II girls soccer teams have made their way to the state semis with one still having to play a quarterfinal game. Three of the five boys soccer teams also are on their way.
At a previous stop, a local paper in Section IX, we were quite accustomed to watching our section get stomped by Section II teams - with a few exceptions - as soon as they advanced into regional play.
I always wondered why that was the case.
Now, at least, I have an idea why that is.
No one in Section II is fighting through a three-team bracket to get the state championship. The brackets of 16 teams or more prepare the teams for state play better than playing a smaller field of teams.
Of course, things get a little more competitive as the size of the schools drop as the upstate teams have more Class C and D schools and are more competitive with their downstate counterparts.
For Class B and up, the edge definitely goes here since the upstate schools, like Massena, are at a competitive disadvantage when they play a team that faces larger schools all the time.
Playing Class C and D schools all season does nothing to prepare schools from Section VII and X for the competition they will face in Section II when they step out into regional play.
Massena coach Mary Arcadi said as much Saturday night after the Lady Bills routed her team in the regional finals.
"We don't have a huge amount of competition in our section," she said. "I just feel if we had more teams of that caliber to play, we would be better. Johnstown is a great team with two great hitters, which we don't see often."
It's hard to gauge how Johnstown will do next week based on its performance in regionals since the Lady Bills have been sweeping just about everyone in similar fashion this year. But after finishing last in pool play in 2011, I'll be keeping an eye out for them to do well in Glens Falls.
I wouldn't be surprised by my next column if there are quite a few state champions coming out of Section II.