Weekly Feature



2017-08-17 / Sports

East, West teams to be headed by new coaches

Three teams within the school district will have first-time varsity coaches guiding them this fall.

West Seneca East’s field hockey and cross-country teams, along with West Seneca West’s girls volleyball squad, will all take to their respective competitive venues with fresh faces leading them, though all three — field hockey’s Philip Archabald, cross-country’s Colin O’Donnell and girls volleyball’s Ashley Bonetto — have prior experience coaching their respective sports at the lower levels.

Needless to say, all three are extremely excited to be taking the next step in their coaching careers.

“I’m just really excited to have the opportunity to continue the work that coach [Jim] Maisano has done for the last few years, and add my own personal touch to things,” said Archabald, who served as Eden’s assistant varsity coach for the past two years after his three-year stint as the head JV coach there ended when that program was dropped. “I’m just really excited to have my first chance at being a head field hockey coach. I know West Seneca East has always been a well-coached team, and having had some great mentors in the past — not to mention having coach Maisano give me a lot of tips coming into this season — I feel ready to put my own spin on everything and be a head varsity coach.”

Though East struggled in the win column last year, Archabald is eager for the returning players to have a fresh start under his tutelage. Having seen East in the past during his time with Eden, Archabald is confident that this year’s crop of Lady Trojans has the necessary tools to post some wins this season. What he feels things might come down to, especially where wins are concerned, is communication and consistency.

“I don’t want us to get too far ahead of ourselves in terms of strategy,” Archabald said. “Things right now just come down to the basics: having the ability to pass, dribble and move the ball well. I see my role as giving the girls a good framework in which they can be creative; I like to let my players have a little bit of freedom to create offensively, to an extent at least, and then we’ll go from there.

“These girls were in a lot of their games last year and we’ve got a lot of girls coming back from that team,” Archabald continued. “We’ll probably rely on our senior leadership this year and just build on that. And I’m looking forward to getting the chance to work with the team, to start working with some of the kids and build relationships with them since I’ll be a new teacher in the district this year too.”

East’s field hockey team will officially get to see how it stacks up to other area competition on Wednesday, Sept. 6, when the Lady Trojans face Lancaster. Until then, Archabald and his players will continue to build on both their on-the-field performance and their overall connection as a cohesive group.

“I know it’s only been a couple of days, but I like what I’ve seen so far,” Archabald said. “The girls who showed up for the first day Monday were really 
Philip Archabald looks over some notes while West Seneca East’s field hockey team gets warmed up for Tuesday’s practice. Archabald takes over the Lady Trojans’ program that brings back a good number of athletes from the previous season. 
Photo by Chuck SkipperPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Philip Archabald looks over some notes while West Seneca East’s field hockey team gets warmed up for Tuesday’s practice. Archabald takes over the Lady Trojans’ program that brings back a good number of athletes from the previous season. Photo by Chuck SkipperPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com good athletes. I’ve done what I can to pick up whatever I could along the way in terms of the great coaches I’ve had in sports myself — I’ve been coaching lacrosse with my brother for almost 11 years, and Jen Carriero at Eden has been a big influence too — so we’ll see how things go.”

O’Donnell, East’s other new coach, was also influenced by his mentors during his competitive days. In fact, it was the hounding by his coach at Williamsville North that persuaded him to shift his endeavors from soccer to cross-country during 1998 and 1999 — a sport that he picked up again after competing for Geneseo State College’s crew team collegiately.

“I’m pretty pumped to be the coach, though it’s definitely different to be in charge of a team rather than just competing for one,” O’Donnell said. “I started running a lot more after college — I’ve done four marathons and a bunch of half marathons — and, I’ve found, the nice thing about coaching cross-country is running with the kids and feeding off their energy. If I didn’t run myself, I wouldn’t feel like I had much to offer them.”

O’Donnell certainly has quite a bit to offer the Trojan harriers, especially after serving as the program’s assistant coach for the past 10 years. He’s been able to watch East’s boys and girls squads have varying levels of success during that time, including seeing runners fare well at ECIC, Section VI and even the state championships. And though he concedes his rosters are a bit on the smaller side for his first time out of the gates as head coach, O’Donnell — who said there’s still plenty of time for additional athletes to come out for the squad — can’t envision leading a more enthusiastic group of runners.

“It’s been a great couple of days so far,” O’Donnell said. “Everyone who’s been at our practices so far has been excited and positive, which is a good thing. It’s been fun to see them bond as a group while they get to know each other. To have a sport where kids are cheering each other on, regardless of their ability, is so nice. You don’t have to be on top to really enjoy this sport.

“The cool thing about cross-country is that even if you’re not winning, you can develop a life-long love of the sport,” O’Donnell continued. “My friends in high school who picked on me for running are doing it now. You hear so much about kids who don’t do sports, and it’s too bad; I think sports are something that’s really important in life. Everyone can run, but if you can get a kid to believe in their true potential, you can try to transform them from someone who is doing the sport to be in good shape into someone who’s truly competing as a runner.”

East’s cross-country squads will kick off their seasons with a tough one right out of the gate, as the Trojans will host crosstown rival West Seneca West on 
New West Seneca East cross-country coach Colin O’Donnell is hoping to help his athletes gain the same love for the sport that he did while competing in high school for Williamsville North. New West Seneca East cross-country coach Colin O’Donnell is hoping to help his athletes gain the same love for the sport that he did while competing in high school for Williamsville North. Tuesday, Sept. 5. It’s as good of a way for O’Donnell to get his head coaching feet wet as any.

“I’d really like to see everyone stick with us, and maybe add a few new faces to the mix too,” O’Donnell said. “If we can stay focused on our personal goals during the year, I think we’ll definitely see the team get better as the season progresses.”

Having the team make progress over the course of the season is also a goal of Bonetto’s for West’s girls volleyball squad.

The former three-sport standout at Orchard Park — she was a defensive specialist for four years for the Lady Quakers — said she always knew she’d be coaching volleyball at some point, “just not at what level.” Bonetto, who went on to play softball at Canisius College, has served as West’s modified coach for the past five years, which should help cut down on the time it takes for everyone to adjust to the “new” situation.

“It’s going to be a change moving to the varsity team, but I’m very excited about the upcoming season,” Bonetto said. “There’s a lot of the same girls in the three sports that I coach — I also coach basketball and softball — and I’ve already coached most of the girls who are going to be on the varsity team this year, which is nice.

“I’m just looking to keep the program moving forward and just make progress as the season gets underway,” Bonetto continued. “We’re in a tough division, but I want to see us improve and really be competitive in our league to where we’re doing the best we can.”

Bonetto met with prospective players toward the end of the last school year after learning she got the job. She has been able to work with the girls over the summer through open gyms and league play at the Buffalo Niagara Court Center. Bonetto also had the Lady Indians hit the weight room during the lead-up to the season, which has both Bonetto and her players chomping at the bit to 
Ashley Bonetto, who takes over as head coach of the West Seneca West girls volleyball team, keeps a watchful eye on Julia Lucas, left, and Tiffany Major as they work on a drill during Monday’s first day of girls volleyball practice. 
Photo by Jake FrenchPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Ashley Bonetto, who takes over as head coach of the West Seneca West girls volleyball team, keeps a watchful eye on Julia Lucas, left, and Tiffany Major as they work on a drill during Monday’s first day of girls volleyball practice. Photo by Jake FrenchPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com really dive into this fall’s campaign.

Once the Lady Indians do take the court, Bonetto would like to see her squad follow her example and be a defensive-minded group. She concedes that true strategy for the season won’t take place until she has the chance to see more from this year’s group over the next couple of weeks of practice, but in the meantime she’ll have plenty of people to bounce ideas off of.

“I talk with my sister all the time about coaching, and my best friend who I went to Canisius with coaches some sports too, and we bounce things off each other all the time,” Bonetto said. “It’s really nice to have that support system, to have people to figure out what works best and what could make us and our teams better. A lot of my coaches, and my sister’s and my friend’s coaches, were great role models who pushed me to get to where I am today. They made me who I am and are why I’m coaching today.”

The Lady Indians’ first opportunity to see how they’ve come together as a unit during the preseason will occur at 4 p.m. Wednesday, when they’ll take part in a multi team scrimmage at the BNCC.

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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