West: Central Valley welcomes new coach on court
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Dennis Damp is back, but in a different capacity.
Damp has returned to the coaching profession as head volleyball coach of the girls team at Central Valley High School.
"This is my debut as a high school girls coach," said Damp, who coached the boys volleyball team at Ambridge for 15 years. "I did coach the women's team at Robert Morris in 1982 when I was in college. I got the job by default when the head coach was fired."
Damp was an assistant boys coach at Montour from 1985 until 1988. He became Ambridge's head boys coach in 1994 and coached all but two seasons until 2010.
"I took off two years in 1998 and '99 after my daughter was born," said Damp, who led Ambridge to consecutive WPIAL Class AA titles in his final three seasons. "I had to stop coaching in 2010 due to family concerns. My parents were having some health issues and had to move in with us."
Ambridge won a PIAA title in Damp's final season.
"It was a great way to go out," Damp said. "But I knew it wasn't my last year of coaching."
Damp knew he would be back. He just didn't know when or where.
"I was surprised to hear that Haley had stepped down," said Damp, referring to former Central Valley girls coach Haley Dzumba. "Haley coached for 12 years or so."
Damp is very familiar with Dzumba and Central Valley because he lives in Monaca.
"When I saw the job opening at Central Valley, I figured it was the perfect time to get back into coaching," Damp said.
Central Valley tied with Montour for second place in Section 3-AA last season. The Warriors won in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs, but lost to Blackhawk in the second round.
"Coaching girls volleyball is a little different than coaching boys volleyball, but it's still the same game," said Damp, when asked how different the two are. "It's been a learning experience for me, but it's also been fun.
"The one big difference is that boys teams often have a terminator, somebody who can control the net, like Nick Goodell," said Damp, referring to a former Ambridge player who is now starting at Penn State. "Ball control is the key in the girls game. You don't see any Nick Goodells in the girls game."
Central Valley has moved to a revamped Section 2-AA this season, along with Ambridge Area, Freedom Area, New Brighton Area, Quaker Valley and Lincoln Park.
"I don't know much about the teams in our section, but I know Ambridge has a strong program," Damp said. "Our goal is to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs."
Damp inherits a squad that had 10 players graduate. The Warriors do have three returning starters, 5-foot-8 senior outside hitter Alicia Ferrara, 5-11 junior middle hitter/opposite Seairra Barrett, and 5-9 senior outside hitter Madeline Hill. Barrett was a second-team All-Section 3-AA selection last year.
"Seairra is a big jumper who is very capable of taking over a match," Damp said. "She has a lot of physical ability. She's also a very accomplished basketball player and track athlete."
Damp has three players vying for the setting position, 5-5 junior Morgan Demaiolo, 5-8 sophomore Eryn Yuran and 5-7 sophomore Leah Ball.
"I prefer a 5-1 [one-setter] offense, but may switch to a 6-2 [two-setter offense] if it makes us a better team," Damp said.
Other playerss on Central Valley's varsity roster are 5-9 senior middle middle hitter Cassandra Parks, 5-8 freshman middle hitter Helen Brown, 5-6 junior outside hitter Natalie Coe, 5-1 junior back-row specialist Marissa Hardy, 5-2 sophomore back-row specialist Bria Jackson, 5-5 sophomore outside hitter Taylor Miklos and 5-4 sophomore back-row specialist Eliza Talvola.
Central Valley opens its season Tuesday at Hopewell. The Vikings are the defending WPIAL Class AA champions.