As of right now, we will have at least five new coaches this fall at the varsity level, including two at state-finalist programs. If anything changes between now and the official start of the season on August 17, I will let you know (or let me know I don’t hear of it). Here’s a look at some of the new faces you’ll see on the sidelines this season, although many really aren’t “new” faces:
• Samantha Gutmann fills arguably the biggest coaching vacancy of the offseason, taking over at Suffern for longtime coach Sean Barnes. Gutmann is a former setter for the Mounties, which won its first state championship last season.
Also handing in their clipboard is junior varsity coach and varsity assistant Melissa Luciano, who will not coach this season. Kelly Flaherty, the oldest sister of Mounties alums Elizabeth and Lisa, will coach the junior varsity program this year. Flaherty is not only an alumna of the school, but was teammates with Gutmann during the 2006 season. Luciano, who is the head coach of the varsity softball program at Suffern, said she plans to return to the softball diamond in the spring.
• As expected, Ashley Anderson has officially been named the new head coach at Haldane. Anderson, a former head coach and longtime assistant, was appointed during a July meeting, according to Haldane athletic director Tom Cunningham. Anderson (pictured below, standing far left) was a part of Haldane state titles in 2011 and 2013.
The Blue Devils, winners of 11 consecutive Class D section championships, are expected to be moved up to Class C in 2016, making it an interesting time for Anderson to take the reigns. Haldane has long competed with programs of all sizes during its dominant run, but with the switch to a larger postseason field in the section and a more competition at the state level with Eden, winners of the last four state titles, this is an excellent opportunity for Anderson going forward.
• Geri Jones takes over at Rye, replacing Melanie Flowers-Mullin after serving as her assistant varsity coach. Jones previously served as the head varsity coach at Mamaroneck in the mid-2000s.
The Garnets did not make it out of the first round of the Section 1 tournament in either season under Flowers-McMullin.
• Mike McGovern gets a promotion over at Tuckahoe, taking over the varsity program for Jessica Mann after coaching the Tigers’ junior varsity. Tuckahoe has had a bit of a rough run of it, but then again Haldane has also owned Class D in the section the last decade.
The Blue Devils are expected to move up to Class C in 2016, when the BEDS (enrollment) numbers are projected to be reworked, meaning that Class D should open up to any of the teams who have traditionally been in the two- or four-team playoff field. Tuckahoe is one of them.
We don’t cover junior varsity, but like the minor leagues of baseball or the D-League of basketball, it can’t hurt to keep an eye out on future prospects. Taking over McGovern’s position is Sloane Dill, a former assistant varsity coach to Mark Finegan over at Pelham.
Dill is an exceptional hire by Tuckahoe. She was a “30 Under 30” award recipient by the American Volleyball Coaches Association in 2011 after having a hand in those dominant Pelham teams of that made back-to-back trips to the Glens Falls Civic Center for the state championships (Dill is pictured standing second from the right).
• Julie Pavelchak take over at Saunders, replacing Nick Ambroselli after one year at the helm. Ambroselli replaced longtime coach Kristen Pyrch just before last season, leading the Blue Devils to a 12-7 mark — one of their best seasons in recent memory.
Pavelchak, a former player over at Gorton, inherits a core of rising juniors — eight, if all return this season — that should give her something to work with out of the gate. Pavelchak was taught by current Ursuline coach Gigi Kemp at Gorton, and the two currently play recreational ball together, along with Horace Greeley coach Daniela Denis.
Photo credit: Journal News