New Franklin Regional girls volleyball coach looks to build program from 'ground up'
In 10 seasons as the boys volleyball coach at Norwin, Mike Feorene built the Knights into one of the top programs in the WPIAL.
He hopes to duplicate that feat in his latest pursuit as the girls volleyball coach at Franklin Regional.
Franklin Regional's board of school directors approved Feorene as girls volleyball coach at its meeting Feb. 18. He replaced Matt Heyman after the Panthers went winless in section play for the third straight season in 2012.
“I love the game, and I saw an opportunity when the last coach left,” Feorene said.
“It gives me a great goal as far as an individual goal, and goals for Franklin as far as their volleyball program being that they didn't have a major successful season last year. I have a task ahead of me, and I'm looking forward to it.”
Feorene, a 1987 Plum graduate who lives in Murrysville, was an assistant coach at California (Pa.) for five seasons before taking over the Norwin program in 1994.
He coached the Norwin girls for five seasons after WPIAL Hall of Famer Sheron Watson left and also started the Norwin boys volleyball program.
Feorene built the Knights boys from a 2-8 record in their first season to a contender that reached the WPIAL semifinals in his last two seasons as coach.
“He has a heck of a background,” Franklin Regional athletic director Zachary Kessler said. “It's very evident just from the little bit that I've known him what a hard worker he is, how much time he put into it and just his love for the sport and working with student-athletes.”
He “took a little siesta” from coaching high school when his twin girls were born, though he did coach in middle school for a few seasons.
Much like his work with the Norwin boys program, Feorene said he's taking a “ground-up” approach to rebuilding at Franklin Regional. The Panthers went 0-12 in section play last season.
Improvement, Feorene said, must begin at the lower levels. To get girls in younger grades interested in playing volleyball, Feorene will hold camps — including a four-day clinic this summer for students in grades 3-8. He also is the coach of the sixth-grade girls team at Mother of Sorrows School and hopes to use that school as a feeder program for Franklin Regional, as well.
Additionally, he wants to build a strong Franklin Regional volleyball tournament after it drew only a handful of teams in 2012. Norwin's spring volleyball tournament, which Feorene built, had a waiting list by the time he left the school.
“Any time you have a successful program, you have people who are going to enter it,” Feorene said. “It's very easy to play for a team that's successful every year, but it takes real character to go out for a sport that gives you nowhere to go but up at the time.”
Feorene said he wants to improve the varsity team defensively, admitting he's “a little old-school when it comes to volleyball.” He also will work with the players in open gyms and the weight room to improve their upper-body and leg strength.
While his immediate goals focus on playing competitively and winning a section match, his long-term goal is to build the Panthers into a section champion.
“I use that as kind of my motivational piece,” Feorene said. “It's not going to happen Year 1, (but) I point to the walls of the gym to the girls, and I do a little rotation and there's not a single section championship up there.
“Unless my data is incorrect or there's not something up there that should be up there, that's something they haven't achieved yet. That's a long-term goal of mine.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.