West Shamokin girls volleyball coach steps down
West Shamokin must begin a search to find who will lead the school's most successful athletic team.
Justin Nolder has stepped down as coach of the girls volleyball team after leading the Wolves six of the past seven seasons.
West Shamokin recently concluded its best year under Nolder, as it advanced to the WPIAL Class A semifinals and qualified for the PIAA tournament.
“I felt it was time to hang it up,” Nolder said. “My decision was made long before the end of the season. I would've stepped down regardless of the outcome.
“It's humbling to be involved with a team that makes a drive that far into the postseason. Obviously, there's a great deal of preparation that goes into it, as the preseason is critical, and the kids I coached understand the necessity of putting in that time during the offseason.”
After serving as an assistant for five years at Elderton, Nolder took over the program in 2006.
He did not coach in 2009, and then he came back to lead the team the past three seasons.
West Shamokin was a volleyball powerhouse before Nolder's arrival, and very little changed afterward. The Wolves qualified for the postseason in each of his six years in charge, and they won at least their first-round match four times.
The Wolves also won at least eight section matches each season and placed second or better the four years they belonged in Class A. When West Shamokin moved to Class AA due to the absorption of Elderton's enrollment numbers for 2010 and 2011, the team twice took third in Section 6.
What happened during Nolder's one year away from West Shamokin spawned an intriguing what-if scenario.
When Elderton closed after the spring of 2009, the Bobcats' long-time coach, Dan Spencer, and Nolder both applied for the position at West Shamokin, which had been opened along with all other coaching jobs in the school.
Spencer was named coach, and the Wolves, stocked with the lineups of two volleyball powers, won the WPIAL Class A title and reached the PIAA semifinals.
Elderton reopened in 2010, and Spencer returned. Nolder, who said he had no bitter feelings, went back to West Shamokin and picked up where he left off.
“I feel pretty confident that I'm stepping away for good,” said Nolder, who will continue to officiate volleyball. “It's going to be tough to come back and see games. There's a huge difference between officiating and coaching. You don't have that camaraderie of being part of the team anymore, and that's very difficult.”
Nolder parts ways with a team that will return the majority of its starters.
“I can't say enough about the kids,” he said. “They understand what it takes to be successful, and they were willing to work that hard. So that's very difficult to step away from. … I feel confident that whoever steps in as coach will take them to that level that we realized this year.”
West Shamokin plans to accept letters of interest for the vacancy until Dec. 17, according to athletic director Tom McClaine.
“It's very important (to find a strong replacement), and right now, it's a very high-profile program,” McClaine said. “We want to see that success continue. It'll be big shoes to fill.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1303.