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Muchnock makes seemless transition back to Hempfield girls basketball

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Sunday, July 23, 2017, 5:24 p.m.
Lindsy Muchnock, the new head girls basketball coach at Hempfield High School, runs drills with the team at Hempfield High School on July 20th, 2017.
Kyle Hodges
Lindsy Muchnock, the new head girls basketball coach at Hempfield High School, runs drills with the team at Hempfield High School on July 20th, 2017.
Lindsy Muchnock, the new head girls basketball coach at Hempfield High School, runs drills with the team at Hempfield High School on July 20th, 2017.
Kyle Hodges
Lindsy Muchnock, the new head girls basketball coach at Hempfield High School, runs drills with the team at Hempfield High School on July 20th, 2017.

As a former assistant at Hempfield, Lindsy Muchnock had a pre-existing comfort level when she was named girls basketball coach there last month.

The 27-year-old Muchnock, who played basketball at Latrobe and Seton Hill, blended seamlessly back into the program after coaching last season at Plum.

She replaced Aaron Epps, her coaching mentor who resigned after five seasons and an 81-43 record, including 14-10 last season with a PIAA playoff appearance.

Hempfield has made 16 consecutive trips to the WPIAL playoffs.

“It's great coming home and being with these girls because I know most of them already,” Muchnock said. “It definitely helped to have that familiarity. I was pretty excited when the position opened.”

Muchnock coached incoming seniors Allison Podkul and Kayla Barientos-Collins two years ago with the junior varsity team.

“We miss coach Epps, and we wish the best for him,” said Podkul, a 15-point-per-game scorer. “But there is a comfort level with Lindsy, and we really feel we can do well this season. She has made us work this summer, and we've seen more girls show up.”

Muchnock, a former standout forward, used the words “anxious” and “nervous” to describe how she felt last year at Plum. It was her first head-coaching gig, and it lasted one season.

“We had four girls who graduated, and we had to replace them so it was tough,” she said. “It was a challenge, but we had to make the best of what we had.”

Plum went 10-13 and lost in the first round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs to Trinity.

Now, she is more comfortable at Hempfield, though she is just a few weeks into her new coaching venture. She inherits a team that returns three starters: Podkul, Barientos-Collins and sophomore Sarah Liberatore.

Respect was not a problem when she was an assistant, Muchnock said, so it should not be a problem as coach.

“I feel like I can relate to the girls,” she said. “It wasn't too long ago that I was playing college basketball.”

Hempfield let its defense lead to offense last season but struggled to score in the playoffs. Muchnock wants to keep the focus on the defensive end of the floor. Hempfield allowed 46.2 points per game.

“We might need to slow it down and grind it out,” Muchnock said. “But we can change depending on who we're playing.

“(Michelle) Burns was the face of the program for so long. We don't have her now, so we need players like ‘AP' (Podkul) to step into that leadership role.”

Epps was known for being animated on the sidelines, something Muchnock said she can't match. But when it comes to correcting players, she also can borrow from Epps.

“The girls know I have very high expectations,” Muchnock said. “I might yell at them for something, but I'll be the first person to pat them on the head and pick them up.”

Muchnock is putting emphasis on the youth program, grades K-6, as she tries to keep the Spartans a playoff regular.

Her assistants are Will Sherbondy, who was on Epps' staff, and Amanda Estok, who played at Pitt-Greensburg and coached with Muchnock at Plum.

Hempfield played in a summer shootout at Seton Hill, which was a homecoming for Muchnock. Skill work has been the order of the day during evening workouts.

“We can always improve on defense,” Podkul said. “We need to work on improving our scoring, too. We've been working on a lot of footwork drills, which is new. We know these things will help us get better.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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