South Xtra: New coach takes charge at Bethel
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Bethel Park girls volleyball coach Shawn Palmer returned home from practice on Monday to find that he had been "flocked."
"I found 100 pink flamingos in my front yard," said Palmer, who resides in Mt. Lebanon. "It's part of a fund-raiser by our boosters club. Make a donation and our boosters will place those gloriously tacky flamingo ornaments in the front yard of whoever you choose. So if you find flamingos in your yard, then you've been flocked."
Palmer has taken over at Bethel Park after spending last season as Fort Cherry's coach.
"I'm originally from Minneapolis," Palmer said. "I coached seven or eight years in Minnesota. My girlfriend and I moved here last year when she changed jobs. She's originally from this area."
Palmer led Fort Cherry to a third-place finish in Section 6-A and a WPIAL playoff berth last season.
"We had the best record in school history," Palmer said. "I enjoyed coaching at Fort Cherry, but the long drive became a bit tough. The drive to Fort Cherry was 45 minutes each way. I'm much closer to home coaching at Bethel Park."
Palmer is thrilled by Bethel Park's new high school.
"We have a brand new high school and a brand new gymnasium," Palmer said. "I couldn't ask for better facilities."
Bethel Park is coming off a disappointing season. The Black Hawks placed fourth in Section 5-AAA with a 6-6 record, falling one win short of qualifying for a WPIAL playoff berth.
"The section is going to be tough," Palmer said. "We lost two of our weaker teams [in the WPIAL realignment] and picked up two of the top teams in Class AA.
"Montour and West Allegheny were both ranked among the top five in the WPIAL in Class AA. With those two schools in the picture it's going to be even harder to qualify for the playoffs. We don't have any nights off in this section."
Bethel Park began it's season Saturday at the eight-team Butler Tournament. The Black Hawks advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Hopewell.
"Inconsistency was our theme," Palmer said. "We are a very young team with only four seniors. We played well at times, but didn't do as well at other times.
"We should be a work in progress for the first half of the season. Hopefully, we'll find an identity in the second half."
Bethel Park began it's Section 5-AAA schedule Tuesday with a 3-1 loss to rival Mt. Lebanon, another section title contender.
The Black Hawks will be in action again this weekend at the Upper St. Clair Tournament.
Palmer has four seniors on his 12-player varsity roster. Two are returning starters, Alyssa Balogh and Haley Prough. Balogh is a 5-7 outside hitter, while Prough is a 5-4 defensive specialist.
"Alyssa and Haley are our co-captains," Palmer said. "We need them to provide leadership for our younger players."
The other two seniors are 5-8 Megan Hahey and 5-6 Morgan Guarino, both of whom are defensive specialists.
Stacey Kazalas, a 5-10 junior outside hitter, is Bethel Park's top returning hitter.
"Stacey is our big gun," Palmer said. "We went to her quite a bit during the tournament. She's good in crunch time."
Palmer's tallest player is Sami Simpson, a 6-1 junior middle hitter.
"Sami is the only player we have who is taller than 6 feet," Palmer said. "She's a very good basketball player who is developing nicely as a middle hitter."
Kaileigh Poe and Sarah Storino split the setting duties last year. Poe, a 5-8 junior, has become the primary setter this year. Storino, a 5-3 sophomore, is the backup setter, but has also been used as a defensive specialist.
Completing Bethel Park's varsity roster are 5-10 sophomore middle hitter Tayler Mannarino, 5-5 junior defensive specialist Morgan Stelmaszynski, 5-8 sophomore opposite Morgan Crawford and 5-8 sophomore outside hitter Olivia Schank.
First Published September 6, 2012 12:00 am