Dan Follett has returned to his alma mater to coach the Seneca Valley boys volleyball team.
"I had just finished my master's degree in Georgia at Mercer University and planned to move back home when my mom told me the boys position at Seneca Valley had opened," Follett said. "I contacted the school and applied for the position. The rest is history."
Follett takes over for Dan Mountain, who coached the Raiders for three years.
"Stepping down was a very tough decision but I'm glad I made it early and that coach Follett was moving back into the area and could take over," Mountain said. "For years I taught at Butler, coached girls volleyball at Mars and boys volleyball at Seneca.
"We had a lot of success both places and leaving Seneca was hard. I had implemented a summer training program and worked with younger players in the hopes of staying there for years, but just yesterday we brought our third child home from the hospital and coaching two varsity sports was out of the question with three very young children."
Mountain has also stepped down as girls coach at Mars and will take over at Butler for coach Meghan Lucas next fall.
"I was a three-year starter at Seneca Valley as an outside hitter," said Follett, who graduated in 2007. "We won the school's first section title and recorded the first WPIAL playoff victory in school history my senior year."
After graduating from Seneca Valley, Follett was a three-year starter at Juniata College. He earned the first of two education degrees at Juniata, then moved to Georgia to work on his master's degree.
"I also hooked on with the women's team at Mercer and served as an assistant coach for two years, so I do have experience," Follett said. "I've just never been a head coach.
"Returning to my alma mater has been very easy. I still know a lot of people at Seneca Valley, so that has made the transition very easy."
Follett takes over a squad that was hit hard by graduation losses, as seven of the Raiders top 10 players have graduated.
"One thing that has made my job a little easier is that we have a strong junior high program," said Follett, who was a member of Seneca Valley's first junior high team when he was in eighth grade. "It's nice to have kids moving up to the varsity team with junior high experience."
Three members of Seneca Valley's 29-man squad were part of last year's starting rotation, 5-foot-7 libero Tyler Blinn, 6-1 outside hitter Kris Baier and 6-1 right-side hitter Patrick Messmer.
"We have five seniors, all of whom have been with the program since the beginning," Follett said. "Tyler saw the most playing time of the [present] seniors last year. He's a force on defense. Patrick is a lefty who has a whip for an arm."
The other two seniors are 6-3 setter Brad Hart and 6-8 middle hitter Alex Snyder.
"We've experimented with 5-1 and 6-2 offenses with Brad as the primary setter in both offenses," Follett said. "Alex is a center on the basketball team who played volleyball as a freshman, but didn't play the past two years."
Three underclassmen who have made an impact are 6-0 junior middle hitter Mike Jones, 6-1 junior outside hitter Josh Creese and 6-3 sophomore middle hitter Taylor Matthews.
"I have been playing 12 to 15 players with the goal of finding the best starting lineup," Follet said. "Our goal is the same as it's been in the past. We want to stay among the top five programs in the WPIAL and push to become one of the top 10 programs in the state."
Seneca Valley opened the season at the North Allegheny tournament and placed 10th among 16 teams.
"We definitely have a foundation of talent here at Seneca Valley," Follett said. "The kids were upset that we didn't finish higher at the North Allegheny tournament, but it was very beneficial for me as a coach. I played everybody and learned a lot about the kids and what they have to offer."
Seneca Valley faced Fox Chapel in it's Class AAA Section 2 opener and the Foxes recorded a 3-1 victory. The Raiders defeated North Hills, 3-1, Tuesday and play host to Shaler tonight.