Reinhard takes over, leads NL to playoffs
On the third day of Northern Lehigh boys' soccer team's preseason practice, Jason Reinhard was asked by Athletic Director Bryan Geist to follow him to the Principal's office.
Reinhard wasn't being disciplined for any reason. Instead, the Northern Lehigh Middle School Physical Education teacher was about to be asked to relinquish his position as a assistant coach for a whole different position within the Bulldogs' soccer program.
"They told me that John (Sitarus) had resigned because of personal matters and they were wondering if I could take over," Reinhard said. "I talked to my wife and we went with that."
Already having being named the girls' soccer coach for this school year, Reinhard took on another head coach position for the time being and becoame the fourth coach in the program's history.
Two months later, the first-year head coach found himself doing something that the previous three coaches weren't able to do over the last eight years with the program. Reinhard and his Bulldog players found themselves in unfamiliar grounds once they completed the regular season schedule.
For the first-time ever, the Bulldogs earned themselves a berth in the District 11 playoffs.
Instead of handing in their soccer uniforms, Reinhard and his Bulldogs earned a few more days of practice thanks to posting the program's first-ever winning record. The Bulldogs, guided by the presence of 10 seniors, finished the regular season with more wins than losses (10-8 overall) to live on another day.
"I knew we had a lot of talent," said Reinhard, when asked if he expected this year's team to make the district playoffs. "But, it's definitely hard to say anything when you never experienced success as a program. It's hard to say, 'Hey, this is where we should be.' This is what we were aiming for. But, to get here though is unreal.
"The thing is, the biggest thing I feel, is pride for them. I'm so proud of them and what they have accomplished and how they stayed determined this year to make sure that everyone knows, 'You know what, this program is for real.' And, that's all on them.
"They went out there every day bonded and were determined to get here."
While Reinhard quickly paid dividends to his players for their efforts in making program history, Geist had total faith in Reinhard in having the ability within himself to guide the Bulldogs to the post-season.
"We knew what kind of coach we had in Jason," Geist said. "We were hoping he could pull it off and we knew he had some of the skills that they needed to pull it off. So, were we completely surprised? No. We were simply very pleased with the job he did this season and very proud of the job he has done with the boys' program."
For his players, like Bulldog senior Channing Shiffert, it wasn't anything more than a smooth transition in dealing with what turned out as a last-second coaching change.
Still, Shiffert and his Bulldog teammates were determined to do one thing and they let Reinhard know that.
"It definitely caught us off-guard (with the coaching change)," said Shiffert, who holds the school record for career goals with 61. "We had no previous knowledge of that happening. But, we kind of sat down with Coach Reinhard and said, 'Look, we have to work with what we have and see what we can do with the season.' It worked out amazing for us.
"He has been with us 100 percent the whole way. So, it's been great. The transition worked out well. Nothing's changed at all."
After experiencing a winless season their freshmen season (0-16), and losing records (5-13 and 6-12) each of their sophomore and junior seasons, it felt good for the four-year players - Shiffert, Thatcher George and Jimmy Bilger - to see their hard work payoff with a winning record as well as seeing their last season extend a game further into the postseason.
And, it was the perfect way for their classmates - Mike Seremula, Mike Gaston, Kevin Heberling, Ryan Perkowski, Josh Pristach, Arie Prickler and Sean Prisi - as well to end their final season.
"I feel accomplished," said George, who shared captain duties with Shiffert. "This was our goal since our freshmen year. I would have been pretty upset if it wouldn't have happened in my final season. But, it obviously did."
While the Bulldogs suffered a heart-wrenching 2-1 loss to Allentown Central Catholic last night to spoil any thought of another first - a first district playoff win, now the Bulldogs have to come to realization of another fact. This was Reinhard's first and last season with the boys' because of a prior committment he made to coach the girls when soccer moves to the fall next year.
"This has been a wonderful experience and I love these guys," Reinhard said. "I'm going to make sure they're taken care of. I'm going to make sure that we have a quality coach ready to take over. They know this. I had committed to the girls' program at the end of last year. I had talked to the girls all summer. I worked with them all summer. And, I got them believing that they're going to turn the girls' program around.
"I told the guys before I just wouldn't feel right in the way I believe if I ditched on them because the "higher" profile job came open. A girls' team can be "higher" profile if you make something out of it and I believe we can make something out of this girls' program as well."
"Unfortunately, with the girls being moved to the Fall, we're probably going to have to open the position again.," Geist said. "I think Jason has committed himself to the girls' program. So, unfortunately, we're going to have to be looking for a new coach again in the boys' program.
"So, we're fortunate to have Jason in coaching one of our programs. But, we're going to have to look and find a couple of more coaches for at least the boys' program it looks like."
GETTIN' DEFENSIVE ..... In its final game of the regular season, the Weatherly girls' volleyball team's back line was simply impressive in a four-set setback to Shenandoah Valley.
Despite dropping a 25-22, 25-23, 18-25, 26-24 loss to the Blue Devils, a trio of Wreckers piled up a numerous amount of digs in attempt to keep a win within reach.
Alicia Panzarella and Alyssa Miller both finished with 32 digs on the night, while Sarah Dolinsky chipped in with 31.
A SECOND CHANCE ... At first, it looked as if the Panther Valley girls' volleyball team was going to finish in second-place in Division 2 of the Schuylkill League.
However, after receiving a bit of news about Lourdes Regional, the Panthers soon found themselves trading in that runners-up position to have that chance to sit atop Division 2 as this year's division champion.
Now, Panther Valley (10-3, 13-3) will now open the Schuylkill League tournament play against Marian, who captured the Division 4 title with a 12-1 league record (13-1 overall). The Panthers will take the net against the Fillies in the first semifinal match of the night tonight at 6 p.m. at Martz Hall in Pottsville.
The other league semifinal pairs off Division 1 champ Pottsville (12-1, 14-1) up against Division 3 champ Tri-Valley (12-1, 16-2). The two winners will play at 7:30 p.m. for the league championship.