Alex Hinsey got a late start when he was hired as boys volleyball coach at Steel Valley High School.
"I was hired one month before practice began," Hinsey said. "It was a little tough getting ready for the season with such little prep time, but I'm still very excited about what this team can do."
Hinsey came to Southwestern Pennylvania in 2007 after graduating from Exeter High School, which is located on the south side of Reading.
"I graduated from Exeter in 2007," Hinsey said. "I come from a program that is a perennial PIAA qualifier. In fact, we won the PIAA Class AA title my senior year."
Hinsey attended the University of Pittsburgh after graduating from Exeter and continued his volleyball career, despite the fact that Pitt does not have a varsity men's volleyball program.
"I played on Pitt's club team all four years," Hinsey said. "In fact, I was Pennsylvania's Club Team president for three years."
Hinsey graduated from Pitt in 2011, but is still coaching the club team.
"My team at Pitt is ranked No. 21 in the country," Hinsey said. "We are among 360 men's and women's teams heading to the national championships next week in Dallas."
Hinsey began his high school coaching career at Moon Area during the 2012 girls season.
"I was an assistant coach until midway through the season," Hinsey said. "At that point, the coach was relieved of her duties, and I became the interim head coach. It was a tough situation, but we got through it."
Steel Valley is entered in Class AA Section 3, along with Keystone Oaks, Seton-LaSalle, South Park, Thomas Jefferson and Trinity. South Park is the defending champion. Steel Valley qualified for the WPIAL playoffs by placing fourth.
"I'm not familiar with the teams in this section, so the first half will be a learning experience for me, too," Hinsey said. "But I still have high expectations for this team."
Realizing those expectations may be tough, as Hinsey's squad has very little experience.
"I have 14 kids and only four have experience," Hinsey said. "I've spent the last month teaching fundamentals. Fortunately, the kids are picking up on everything well. They are open to learning and that's half the battle."
An injury to David Grace, a sophomore outside hitter, has slowed the team's progress.
"Dave suffered a knee injury while playing at a soccer tournament 10 days ago," Hinsey said. "The injury could keep him out for a while. It's too bad, because he's one of our best players."
Hinsey is expecting big things from Tyler Votedian, a 5-foot-10 senior who was voted to the third team All-Section 3-AA last season. Votedian has moved from outside hitter to setter.
"My main goal for the kids is to see them learn the game of volleyball and what it takes to win," Hinsey said. "The key is to continue improving from the beginning of the season until the end."
Steel Valley played its first match Tuesday night, defeating Summit Academy, 3-0. The Ironmen begin their Section 3 schedule tonight at South Park.
The other seven players in Steel Valley's starting rotation are 5-7 senior defensive specialist Josep Catafal, 6-4 senior middle hitter Tyrieq Patton, 5-11 senior opposite Tim Sablotny, 5-11 junior middle hitter Kyler Maddigan, 5-9 sophomore outside hitter Tyler Smith, 5-3 sophomore libero Steven Ruffing, and 5-4 freshman outside hitter/defensive specialist Ryan McCallister.