Four new varsity coaches take over
The fall sports season gets into full swing this weekend.
Northwetsern's golf team started the season nearly two weeks ago, while the rest of the schools varsity fall sports teams get under way Friday and Saturday.
Four Tiger teams will have new coaches this fall. The football, field hockey and golf teams all saw coaches step down after last season, while the new varsity volleyball program has an experienced coach who is in charge of his first varsity program.
A former Tiger star athlete takes over the football program.
Josh Snyder played four years at Lehigh and joined the Northwestern coaching staff after leaving college.
The 1998 Northwestern graduate takes over a team that went 5-5 the past two seasons.
A receiver in college, Snyder has been offensive coordinator the past two seasons. He took the helm after Tom Linette's retirement last winter and has been running offseason workouts and practices through spring and summer.
"I'm enjoying it a lot," Snyder said. "It's a lot different. It's a lot more challenging than being an offensive coordinator. There's a lot more stuff you have to deal with ordering equipment, working and coordinating with the booster club, making sure the field is set up and the water is out and working with the trainer. It's a lot that you have to juggle at one time, but it's something that I'm enjoying doing.
"The rest of the coaching staff has really helped. Each guy runs a specific position group. I not only count on them, but I look for them to do their job and do it well. I let them coach. I'm not a micromanager."
Northwestern's golf team saw the retirement of Justin Smith, who founded the program in 2005 and guided it to its first Colonial League team playoff last year.
Tim Miller, the head pro at Olde Homestead Golf Course, takes over the team this year.
Before coming to Olde Homestead, Miller ran the junior golf program and Manufacturer's Golf Club for 20 years.
"I'm very excited about this opportunity," Miller said, "I'm looking for a very gratifying season. I have had such a love of golf for 45 years that if I can give these kids half of the love of the game that I have, I'm going to consider it a job well done."
Miller has coached youth sports in the Parkland School District for a long time.
He looks forward to seeing his players learn the life lessons that golf teaches.
"I love to win, but I want these kids to give 110 percent and act like ladies and gentlemen," Miller said. "If they tell me they tried their hardest on every one of the 105 shots they took, I'm going to be proud of them.
"With the golf being (a sport) that you're your own official out there, I think this taps into some things the other sports don't offer. I'm looking forward to a really, really good season this year."
First-year Northwestern field hockey coach Patty Mengel feels the same way.
"I want to keep it fun," Mengel said. "It has to be enjoyable. It's part of the educational process. The majority of kids are not going to play in college. They should come away with it feeling like they've gained something not just athletically, but emotionally and socially."
A former three-sport athlete at Northwetsern, Mengel spent the past five years as a high school field hockey official. Before that she was head coach at Central Catholic.
A 1986 graduate who was part of the 1985 state championship softball team and went on to play field hockey at Temple University, Mengel's been teaching at Northwestern for the past 21 years and is overjoyed to coach at her alma mater.
"This is a dream come true," she said. "My coaches made such an impact on me in high school, all three. I've just been really blessed. I want to have the impact that my coaches had on me."
Volleyball coach Dave Hufnagle has been coaching in the Northwestern Volleyball Club and the Northwestern Youth Association for years and was a logical choice to take over the school's first varsity volleyball team.
He knows many of the players from coaching them in club season. And he feels they're well prepared for their first high school season.
"This is my seventh year with a lot of them," Hufnagle said. "They've grown a lot both vertically and skill-wise.
"Some of the kids are new so it's their first exposure to volleyball, but the kids that have been through the program through NYAA or the Northwestern Volleyball Club, have been playing pretty much year round. They're ready."
Most of the newcomers to the sport will be on Hufnagle's junior varsity team. All 12 players on the varsity team came through the club program.
For years many of Hufnagle's club volleyball players would miss practice or matches because of high school sports. One benefit of volleyball now being a varsity sport is that during the fall season it will be the players' top priority.
He enjoys seeing the players' progress through a more rigorous practice schedule.
"This is every day," he said. "In club season we practice twice a week. This is five times a week. In club season we have kids playing other sports. School sports game take top priority."
All four Northwestern coaches are looking for successful seasons this fall. The field hockey and golf teams both finished over .500 last year and hope to build on that success. The football team was 5-5 in 2011 and is also ready to return to prominence in the Colonial League.