First-year coach Van Balen looking to lead KO girls volleyball to success
TribLIVE Sports Videos
When Keystone Oaks needed a new coach for the girls volleyball squad, it didn't have to go far — it just had to look to the bench.
Former assistant Ben Van Balen replaced previous coach Mike DiPaolo, who accepted a position as an assistant coach with the Point Park women's volleyball team.
“I have been looking for a head coaching position,” Van Balen said. “I have been playing the sport since eighth grade. Now that I am not playing as much as I used to, I had been looking into coaching.”
Van Balen joined the Keystone Oaks boys coaching staff in 2009 and spent one season with the girls squad in 2011. He played for the Keystone Oaks boys volleyball team during his time at Keystone Oaks. After graduating, he played at Mercyhurst.
To help lead the squad, Van Balen has brought in assistant coach Roxy Minemyer, who played at Rutgers.
Van Balen will lead a senior-laden team in his first season; the squad features seven seniors and with five juniors.
Senior setter Makenzie Kunig has been at the position for three years, senior Jamie Hans plays outside hitter and senior Jenn DeFazio will be the libero.
“We have a pretty big rotation,” Van Balen said. “We are stacked. It is the kind of thing you want in your first season.”
Three seniors — outside hitter Jess Long and defensive specialists Alex Ferrari and Sarah Long — should help provide a strong defense.
The team is breaking in first-year varsity players at middle blocker in senior Katie Palmer and junior Sydney Cowan.
“(Palmer) had limited time on the varsity level last season due to the seniors we had,” Van Balen said. “Both are kind of learning on the spot.”
Along with a new coach, the Lady Golden Eagles will compete in a new section. After struggling to compete with powers like Central Valley, Montour and West Allegheny — the latter two have moved up to Class AAA — in Section 3-AA, Keystone Oaks was moved to Section 6-AA.
The Lady Golden Eagles will compete against squads such as East Allegheny, Seton-La Salle, South Fayette, South Park and Steel Valley. Keystone Oaks opened the season 1-1 in section action with a 3-0 win over Steel Valley and a 3-0 loss to South Park.
“The last couple years, it had been a pretty tough section,” Van Balen said. “I think the WPIAL did a good job bringing the group of talent together it did in this section. There will be some really good competition. As far as I can tell, the section is wide open.”
Van Balen said his top priority is to make sure the athletes remain focused on the student part of being a student athlete. But once the studying is done, making a run to the postseason will be a top goal.
“The ultimate goal is to make the playoffs,” Van Balen said. “When the regular season ends, we want to be one of the top three teams in the section.”
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-388-5813.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers finalize 53-man roster
- Pitt cruises past Delaware in season opener
- Coping with Kids: Cool products for family road trips
- Pirates notebook: Morton status remains in limbo
- Former Steelers linebacker Harrison retires
- Outbound 376 reopened after man on exit sign caused closure
- Woman killed in Fayette County van-motorcycle collision
- AFL-CIO: Wolf out in front in city’s Labor Day parade
- Penn State edges Central Florida on last-second field goal
- Secret judicial ruling blocks release of sexually explicit emails
- 90,000 people could hit the North Shore for games, ribs