Matt Gendaszek couldn’t have asked for a much better situation to come back to coaching high school.
The former John W. Hallahan coach stepped aside from high school in 2008, but was intrigued by the prospect of coaching Archbishop Carroll after Patriots coach Tim Storti stepped down.
“I’ve been out of the Catholic League for about five or six years,” Gendaszek said. “I was at Hallahan for five years and my last year was the first year the PCL was in the PIAA, but the league wasn’t eligible to play for the postseason titles. I’m excited to finally have a team that can represent the PCL and District 12 in the postseason.”
Gendaszek may very well have that opportunity as he takes over a team with seven returning seniors and one of the best juniors in the area in All-Delco outside hitter Sarah Layfield. It’s the biggest roster he’s ever worked with, something that is just fine by him.
“When I took the job, I met with the seniors and they really embraced the way I do things and my coaching style,” Gendaszek said. “I’m carrying a larger roster than I ever have and I’m loving it. The practices run better and the competition makes everyone better. They’ve all embraced the total team concept.”
Layfield, whom Gendaszek called, “one of the better players I’ve seen in my coaching career,” is the headliner. She had 269 kills a year ago and a 93 percent serving percentage, so she’s as good a foundation as any. But Samantha Conboy brings the heat from the other outside hitter spot as one of the hardest hitters in the area. Sophomore setter Emily McCann is another star in the making, too.
If anything, Carroll will be a bear on defense. Gendaszek is awfully bullish on his defense, so much so that…
“If Penn State is Linebacker U, Archbishop Carroll is Libero High,” Gendaszek said. “I have five liberos that could play on just about any team.’
Megan Quigley and Victoria Glammer lead the Patriots’ defense and if all goes well, Carroll will be right in the thick of things to knock off defending champion Lansdale Catholic.
“We’re right there with Lansdale, Cardinal O’Hara, Archbishop Wood and those teams,” Gendaszek said. “I guarantee we’re going to make noise. I’m really confident that nobody is going to overlook our team.”
Bill Collins has coached his Cardinal O’Hara team to 57 straight wins in the Catholic League regular season. He lost his first league game as a coach to Archbishop Wood in 2008 and hasn’t lose since.
But the only numbers that linger with him are 1-4. That’s the Lions’ record in PCL title games during that stretch and that’s just too much losing for Collins’ blood.
“I’ll trade a loss in the regular season for a win in October,” Collins said. “We have high expectations. We’ve been in the title game for 14 years in a row, but we haven’t won of late.”
Collins’ team is short on experience, but high on talent. Outside hitters Meghan Czapka and Caitlin Fitz are the headliners. The duo could challenge for the title of best set of outside hitters in Delco.
“They’re complete, all-around players,” Collins said. “There’s not one part of their game that lacks. I don’t know how many kids in the area are as good all-around. They just don’t come off the court for us.”
Collins has been struggling to get practice time with O’Hara’s gym being renovated, but he’s pleased with where the Lions are, especially this early. Defensive specialists Natalie Gray and Brittany Byrne are stepping up and Nicole Poissant is holding down the setter spot while Monica McNicholas recovers from an injury. Freshman Charlee Borcky also garnered praise and Collins knows that he will need some help from his middle blockers, too.
“Lauren Daly and Gabby Napoleon need to be good,” Collins said. “If we can get some production out of them, we’re going to be good, because then teams can’t cheat to Czapka and Fitz.”
Experience is the name of the game at Bonner-Prendergast.
Well, at least for a group led by seven seniors, anyway. Coach Mary Callan is high on the trio off Alex Scepansky, Kerry Smith and Sarah Boulaiche and thinks they can help the Pandas do big things.
“I expect a lot out of them,” Callan said. “They’re all returning starters, so they have experience and should be pretty good.”
Boulaiche and Scepansky will direct the offense as setters and Smith spearheads the defense as its libero. But an infusion of young blood always helps. One of Prendie’s young guns is sophomore middle Veronica Kirchner.
“She has shown so much improvement in the last year,” Callan said. “She deserves to be there. She played JV last year and has improved 110 percent.”
Callan also thinks that junior outside hitter Amber Ballinger might be a candidate for a breakout year.
“She’s not starting, but she’ll come in on the first rotation. She has a lot more control this year whereas last year, she didn’t have as much control,” Callan said.
Lansdale Catholic is the defending champion, but it will be a dogfight until the end in the PCL. The league could have both a AA and a AAA team make serious noise in the state tournament.