Why would a coach leave a high school volleyball program that just won a WPIAL title to take over a program that hasn't been to the WPIAL playoffs in five years?
"It was an opportunity I just couldn't pass up," said Dan Mountain, who coached the Mars girls team the past six years. "I've been a teacher in the Butler School District the past 10 years. I've wanted to coach the boys or girls team at Butler since I started here, but they had two veteran coaches who have been here for a long time."
Mountain received his opportunity when Meghan Lucas stepped down as Butler's girls coach after nine seasons with the Golden Tornado, and 17 years overall.
"I teach seventh grade history, so it's much easier to drive five minutes from the junior high to the high school for practice every day, than the 20-minute drive I had to Mars," Mountain said.
Leaving Mars after leading the Planets to six consecutive WPIAL Class AAA playoff appearances was not an easy decision.
"I thought long and hard about it," Mountain said. "It was a really tough decision because of the players I left behind. I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to teach and coach in the same district."
Mountain doesn't mind that he's stepping into the strongest section in the WPIAL. Butler competes in Class AAA Section 3, which includes both of last year's WPIAL finalists: North Allegheny and Fox Chapel. And Pine-Richland was a quarterfinalist.
"It's great to be in Section 3," Mountain said. "This section has some of the best teams in the WPIAL. Every match will be against a competitive team. We have to be prepared to compete with them."
Mountain's debut at Butler is Saturday, as the Golden Tornado play host to their own tournament.
"We only have eight teams, but all eight are quality programs," said Mountain, who also coached the boys team at Seneca Valley for three years, stepping down after the 2012 season. "I'm really looking forward to the tournament because I will get my first chance to see how the girls perform against good competition."
Saturday's tournament starts at 8:30 a.m. with Butler joined by Avonworth, Grove City, Hopewell, Indiana, Kiski Area, Plum and Grove City.
Mountain was hired before the spring sports season.
"I actually got a chance to see the girls we have on our junior high team because that season was in the spring," Mountain said.
"Being a teacher at the junior high has made the transition much easier. I already know most of the girls on the team. In fact, I had most of them in class."
Mountain has 23 players on his squad, including 12 he will keep on the varsity. Four of the 12 have significant varsity experience, including Gabriell Carney, a 5-10 senior middle hitter who was second-team all-Section 3.
"Gabby [Carney] will be our go-to hitter," Mountain said. "She hits well from the front and back row."
The other three players with significant varsity experience are 5-10 senior middle hitter Kiana Green, 5-5 senior libero Erin Hildebrand and 5-7 junior setter Rachel Rebmann.
"Rachel will be doing most of the setting," Mountain said. "She's a left-handed setter."
Rebmann will be setting to three outside hitters who have little or no varsity experience: 5-8 senior Kristen Knass, 5-7 junior Lauren Skidmore and 5-7 junior Alyssa DiPippa.
"We need our outsides to step up for us to be a legitimate contender in the section," Mountain said.
Also expected to be in Butler's starting rotation are 5-6 senior defensive specialist Tia Wright, 5-9 senior opposite Emily Shorr and 5-10 junior opposite Baylee Verner.
Butler's first section match is Sept. 3 against Pine-Richland.