Veteran coach Spencer happy to be back with West Shamokin girls volleyball
The last time Dan Spencer coached West Shamokin's girls volleyball team, the Wolves claimed the school's first WPIAL title in any sport.
That was 2009. Now, Spencer is back to coach the Wolves, but much has changed in the last four years.
Spencer, the longtime coach at Elderton, returned from a year away from the high school game to replace Justin Nolder, who resigned at the end of last season. Spencer is in preparation for what will be his second season as West Shamokin's coach.
“I thought it was over for me. I had been coaching at Elderton for so many years, I wasn't going to go chasing another volleyball job,” Spencer said. “The last time I was at West Shamokin, the kids who are the seniors now were in the junior high program, so it's not like I'm coming into a situation I don't know.”
Familiarity with the program in Rural Valley was the only reason Spencer was even interested in another high school position.
Spencer's long tenure at Elderton was presumed to be over in 2008, when the school first closed and he took over the West Shamokin program the following season. A year later, Elderton reopened and Spencer returned to his alma mater, where he coached until the school closed again after the 2011-12 school year.
Though he continued to coach in the club volleyball ranks, Spencer assumed his time at high schools was done until Nolder stepped down.
“When they were deciding what to do with Elderton, they kept going back and forth, and I was the ball,” Spencer said.
“I was surprised when Justin resigned, and I didn't expect that door to reopen. When you go to a new program, it takes three or four years to really get things how you want it. I wouldn't have gotten back into high school coaching if it wasn't with West Shamokin.”
The biggest challenge of Spencer's first stint with the Wolves was dealing with combining the players from both West Shamokin and Elderton's programs. While an element of that still exists, there is at least one year in the books for the renewed merger.
“They kept a bunch of kids last year, and I have to look at the possibility that I might make cuts, but my gut feeling is that things will work out and we may not have to do that,” Spencer said.
Spencer hopes that through summer workouts, West Shamokin players will continue to mesh into a single program and that the old lines between Elderton kids and West Shamokin kids will disappear.
“We're in there working a couple times a week, and I'm getting a chance to see what the landscape looks like,” Spencer said. “There's a nice core group of kids there, but it is still summer, so there's more questions than answers.”