By Pete Chiodo
The volleyball nets have barely been taken down and rolled up and already the wrestling mats and basketball hoops are taking their place as the fall sports season gives way to winter.
The cold-weather trio of basketball, wrestling and swimming (indoors, of course) has its first official day of practice today throughout the state of Pennsylvania.
A few short weeks later — Dec. 6, to be exact — the 2013-14 season starts.
“We’re pretty excited,” said Mark McElhinny, the new head coach for the Meadville boys basketball team.
McElhinny is back on the varsity level following a three-year absence. He was the head coach for the Maplewood High School boys for 15 years before leaving at the end of the 2009-10 season. He takes over the Bulldogs squad for Norm Price, who had helmed the team for 24 seasons overall.
“I think the whole program is raring to go, to see what we have to work with, to get started,” McElhinny said. “We put in a lot of work in the offseason and now we want to see where we are.”
At least McElhinny will have his whole squad at the ready. There are other programs that will have to start without some key players, like at General McLane.
“We are, of course, still waiting on the football guys,” said Brian Schulz, who takes over as head coach of the Lancers boys basketball team for his father, Andy Schulz, who was at McLane’s helm for 29 seasons.
Brian was Andy’s assistant for a number of years. So, he’s grown accustomed to playing the waiting game with McLane’s football team, which has enjoyed its share of deep postseason runs in the past and is currently preparing to take on Cathedral Prep in Friday’s District 10 Class AAA championship game.
“A lot of coaches and people outside the program say, ‘Isn’t that a bummer?’” Brian Schulz said. “We’re just used to it. And it’s a good thing, waiting for something like that.”
It’s not just some basketball teams that are waiting for athletes either. For instance, Lakeview Sam Breese will wait to follow-up on his 2012 heavyweight state title as he is currently in the chase for a District 10 championship with the rest of the Sailors football team. Breese is a two-way starter on the line.
“If they do really well and end up going several more weeks, that will certianly eliminate much of a preseason, if you will, and the early part of the season,” said Lakeview wrestling coach Tom Tingley. “He will pretty much be going right from football to start wrestling. ... Obvously, wrestling condition is much different than football conditions. But Sam is a hard worker ... I’m sure he’ll be ready.”
One team that is in a rather unique position is the Cochranton girls basketball team. Yes, the Lady Cardinals will have all their players availaible, at least in a physical sense.
The girls basketball team shares much the same roster with Cochranton’s girls volleyball squad. And just two days ago the team fell short in the PIAA Class A state title game to Marian Catholic.
Will the girls be ready to turn their attention to hoops? Or will the sting still be lingering?