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By Jennifer Goga
Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

For the past eight years, Chris Kelly was a highly successful boys' volleyball coach at Peters Township.

Before Kelly, 39, became head coach, the Indians never had a winning season. During his tenure, they made it to the postseason six times, including the past five consecutive seasons.

Now, Kelly is taking over as head coach of the Baldwin girls' volleyball program. After two years without a WPIAL playoff berth, the Lady Highlanders are hoping Kelly can bring his same successful formula to his alma mater.

Kelly, a 1993 graduate, believes the Baldwin girls have the talent and ability to succeed this season.

“I'd like to win our section, which would put us in the playoffs. We haven't made the playoffs the past two years,” he said. “Once we (qualify), I think we can go pretty deep into the playoffs.”

Coaching at Baldwin High School is a move that brings Kelly closer to his home, family and community.

“It became a personal issue of time and commitment,” Kelly said.

As his children, Rachel, 9, and Alex, 7, became involved in spring sports like softball and baseball, Kelly found it more difficult to juggle coaching and family schedules.

Because high school girls' teams play a fall volleyball schedule, Kelly believes the conflicts will ease with his new coaching duties. And as a Baldwin resident, he no longer will have to travel to Peters Township for matches and practices.

There was no need for team introductions for Kelly since he had been an assistant for former head coach Adam Foote the past three seasons.

The two have switched roles for the 2014 season.

Kelly was introduced to volleyball by Mike Scahill, former head coach of the Baldwin boys' team.

“I was there at the very beginning of the boys' program,” said Kelly, who credits much of his coaching style to Scahill.

After playing volleyball for three years at Baldwin, Kelly went on to play at the Division I level at St. Francis University.

After college graduation, he started coaching boys' junior varsity volleyball at Baldwin under Eric Falcione, current head coach of the Baldwin boys' varsity volleyball program.

Falcione met Kelly when he was 15 years old and coaching in the St. Elizabeth CYO volleyball program.

“The Peters program was dead in the water when (Kelly) took over. He turned it around for them; they've had some really top-notch players,” Falcione said. “They played a lot like Chris did; the intensity was amazing.

“He's a tough competitor and (was) a very intense player. I wouldn't say he's mellowed; he understands the psyche of his players and how to the get the most out of them. Kids love playing for him.”

Kelly also served as an assistant in the Baldwin girls' program for three years for head coach Lynda Scahill until 2002.

He coached middle school volleyball at Peters Township, where he also teaches, before landing the boys' varsity coaching position in 2006.

Over the years, Kelly has coached both boys and girls and enjoys both equally, despite their differences.

“Girls are more emotional. It's harder for them to set aside what happened in their school day,” he said. “With boys, practice is a release from all of that.”

Falcione believes Kelly will make a smooth transition at Baldwin.

“The game itself won't be difficult, but it's different coaching girls,” Falcione said. “Being a teacher will help him, and I'm sure he will be talking to Lynda Scahill for advice.

“Chris is a good communicator; he will do fine.”

Kelly loves coaching, but admits it can be challenging at times.

The hardest part?

“Balancing my time, and losing,” he said. “I'm a very competitive person. It's very hard for me to lose. I carry the losses with me for a long time.”

Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.

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