North Xtra: Injury delays Butler coach's start to season

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It's not unusual to have an athlete start a season late due to an injury or medical concern.

It is unusual to have a coach facing that situation as a season begins.

Butler Area's boys volleyball coach Lew Liparulo experienced this for the first time in his coaching career.

"I like to run everyday," said Liparulo, now in his 21st season as the Golden Tornado coach. "I went out on a day when I shouldn't have and slipped on a patch of ice. I hit my head pretty good and suffered a concussion."

This happened just before Butler started practice for the 2014 season.

"I've heard about the various things a concussion victim goes through, but never thought I would have to deal with it," Liparulo said. "I thought: 'How bad could it be?' It was real bad. I was nauseated and had bad headaches. There was no way I could coach."

Liparulo wasn't allowed to teach or coach for two weeks after the injury.

"I missed both scrimmages," Liparulo said. "My assistant, Jim Aggas, took over and ran the practices and scrimmages until I was able to coach again. Jim has been my assistant for 11 years, so I knew the team was in good hands."

With Liparulo back in the fold, Butler opened the season with a 3-2 come-from-behind win against Greater Latrobe in a non-section match. The Tornado also played in the Norwin tournament Saturday and advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Norwin.

"We graduated four lettermen from last year's team and have six starters back," Liparulo said. "That's a pretty good nucleus to build the team around."

Butler's top returnee is Matt Huey, a 6-foot-1 senior middle hitter who was voted first-team All-Section 2-AAA and third-team All-WPIAL Class AAA.

"Matt is pretty active in club ball," Liparulo said. "He had one heck of a season last year. He's an impact player, our best hitter."

Butler's other returning starters are 6-1 senior outside hitter Matt Rudzski, 5-8 senior defensive specialist Josh Kaufman, 6-1 junior setter Andrew Paterno, 6-0 junior middle hitter Robert Kunst and 5-10 junior libero Chris Fiorina.

"We started last season with Andrew in a 6-2 offense, but switched to a 5-1 with him doing all the setting," Liparulo said. "This year, we're starting with a 5-1 with Andrew at the helm."

Liparulo also used Gabe Baroffio, a 5-7 junior, during the tournament.

"I wanted to give Gabe some playing time during the tournament, because I want him to be ready if we need him," Liparulo said.

"In my many years of coaching, I've learned that you have to be ready for anything. You never know when a kid will go down with an injury or a concussion. That's why I like to play a lot of different kids when I have the opportunity."

Newcomers who have stepped into the starting lineup are 5-11 right-side hitter Keenan Krause, a left-hander, and 6-0 junior outside hitter Stephen Kriley.

"Keenan's twin brother, Arum, is sitting out this year with knee problems," Liparulo said. "It's a shame, because he would have contributed to this team."

Arum Krause is a 5-11 junior outside hitter.

Liparulo said North Allegheny is the team to beat in both the section and WPIAL, but said the Tornado will be a serious contender in the playoff race.

"North Allegheny and Fox Chapel are very good," Liparulo said. "I feel we have enough talent to be competitive with everybody."

Butler began its section schedule Tuesday with a 3-0 home victory against North Hills. The Tornado plays at Shaler Area tonight, and is at the North Hills tournament on Saturday.

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