West Xtra: New Moon coach is eager to turn program around


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Sam Woods got double his pleasure when he applied for the Moon Area High School boys volleyball head coaching position.

"I had already applied for the boys position when I heard the girls position had also opened up," Woods said. "I promptly informed Moon athletic director Ricci Rich that I was interested in both positions."

Woods had no previous head coaching experience, but significant experience as an assistant coach.

"I was an assistant for Brendon Aleski at Montour for both teams," Woods said. "I was with the girls team for nine years and with the boys for eight years. I learned a lot in my years at Montour.

"I wanted a chance to be a head coach and I couldn't have asked for a better scenario than to take over both programs at the same time. I'm really looking forward to the challenge."

Woods, a 2000 graduate of Montour, noted that the girls season is played in the fall and the boys in the spring, which avoids any direct scheduling conflicts.

"We won a WPIAL title my senior year and placed second in the state," Woods said. "I was voted to the WPIAL and [Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association] all-state teams. I played a little when I attended Edinboro. After graduating, I hooked on as a middle school coach at Montour."

Woods works for PNC Bank.

"I have a work schedule that is conducive to coaching," Woods said. "And my bosses afford me some flexibility to leave work with enough time to get to practice. They have been very supportive of my coaching and I appreciate that."

Woods has an even bigger challenge to deal with, as Moon's boys team has moved up to Class AAA for his coaching debut. Last season, the Tigers went winless (0-10) in Class AA Section 1.

"I actually don't think [moving up in classification] is a bad thing," Woods said. "I prefer to play a stronger schedule. You have to play good competition to build a successful program."

Moon opened the season Saturday at the Norwin Tournament, but the Tigers were a little short-handed.

"We were missing two starters," Woods said. "We went 3-5 in our matches, which is better than expected. One good thing is that a few other kids picked up some varsity experience."

Woods will use a nine-player rotation, which includes four returning lettermen, 6-foot-4 senior outside hitter Alex Cords, 6-0 senior libero Westin Baselj, 5-10 senior defensive specialist Nick Pratt and 6-6 junior middle hitter Michael Kotok.

"Alex played in the middle last year, but we've moved him to the outside," Woods said. "Westin has been playing in the back row since at least his sophomore year, maybe freshman. He's a great defensive player, so I've moved him to libero.

"Nick has moved from libero to back-row specialist and outside hitter. Michael is our tallest player. We're expecting big things from our big guy."

Mark Bartus, a 5-10 senior, has taken over the setting duties.

"Mark was the JV setter last year," Woods said. "Mark is the type of player you want running your team. He's done very well for a first-year starter."

The other four newcomers in Woods' starting rotation are 5-10 senior outside hitter Tim Martin, 5-11 senior opposite Eric Elias, 6-5 junior middle hitter Zach Fuller and 5-11 junior defensive specialist Ryan Tipker.

"Tim, Eric and Zach are first-year players," Woods said. "Tim and Zach are basketball players."

Moon's first match was Tuesday at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. The Tigers played at Canon-McMillan Wednesday night in their section opener.



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