New game in town
Eagle Staff Writer
Written by:
By Josh Rizzo
April 9, 2014

ADAMS TWP — Rich Schoeffel felt like he found the opportunity he was looking for, even if he didn’t have the prerequisite experience.

His background in lacrosse before February was a few pickup games he played in college.

But when the Mars girls lacrosse team needed a coach, Schoeffel stepped forward to take the reins, just a few weeks before the season started.

Before the start of the Planets’ inaugural season, Schoeffel had to do some research.

“I coached softball for four years as an assistant and wanted to be a head coach,” Schoeffel said. “The girls said we don’t have a coach and no one wants to coach us. ... I wanted to get in on the ground floor. I see some good potential with our team.”

To be fair to Schoeffel, finding experienced lacrosse coaches in Western Pennsylvania is no easy task. Only four Butler County schools — Butler, Mars, Seneca Valley and Knoch — sponsor the sport.

The WPIAL only started fielding championships for girls lacrosse in 2004 and the boys in 2008. Before then, teams competed as club teams.

Knoch’s boys team is also in its first year of WPIAL competition, led by first-year head coach Nathan Barthlow.

Barthlow has the benefit of experience. A 2011 Butler graduate, Barthlow picked up the sport in sixth grade and played for the Golden Tornado in high school.

Knoch has started 0-4 entering Monday’s game at Plum and Barthlow said his team has varying levels of experience. Adjusting to teaching some players who are newcomers to the sport was something he had to get used to.

“I think coming in it was challenging for me,” Barthlow said. “I was still in the playing mindset. The kids have asked me what I would have done here or there in practice.”

Building basics skills was the focus at Knoch.

“Once you learn passing, catching and cradling, everything falls into place,” Barthlow said. “Learning everything else is a challenge.”

From coaching softball and football, Schoeffel felt he knew how to get his team conditioned.

Schoeffel’s first step once he got hired was to do his homework about the girls game. He went to a few practices at Robert Morris University and watched videos on YouTube.

“I knew how to pass, cradle and catch,” Schoeffel said. “I played mostly pickup when I was at Slippery Rock. The girls game is a lot different. I didn’t have the experience.”

Luckily for Schoeffel, he found a few assistant coaches who did. Lindsay Flavion, a 2008 Seneca Valley graduate, thought she wouldn’t have enough time to coach lacrosse with her job.

She was an assistant coach for the Raiders last season and played during high school. After she resigned last winter to focus on her job, Schoeffel got in touch with her right before tryouts.

“I knew when I resigned I was going to regret it,” Flavion said. “I thought I was going to be too busy with my job and wasn’t going to be able to do it. When Rich gave me a call I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity.”

Flavion and fellow Seneca Valley graduate Meredith Vicente were able to start working with the team March 3, which was the last day of tryouts.

Mars had 40 girls try out for the team and trimmed the roster down to 32.

“I was a little nervous, going from a program that was more established to a program that’s brand new,” Flavion said. “From the beginning, I was pleasantly surprised. I saw right off the bat that we have talent and potential.”

Vicente said Flavion’s previous experience makes her a key asset.

“She brought a lot of knowledge and another perspective,” Vicente said. “If we need to work on transition, she’ll say I remember this drill or that drill that we can do. We both bring our personal experience from playing women’s lacrosse and that’s helped.”

So far, getting used to coaching has been an adventure for Schoeffel. The Planets are 2-2, including 2-1 in Division II-Section 3 play.

During last Tuesday night’s 17-7 loss to Shaler, Schoeffel leaned on his assistant coaches.

“We couldn’t stop Shaler in the first half and I was thinking, ‘What can we do to stop them?’” Schoeffel said. “Lindsay made some adjustments at halftime and we stayed with them in the second half. I’m starting to understand the game more and know how the process is working.”

But the process is part of the challenge. And Schoeffel is happy to have the chance to mold a young program.

“It’s been a real experience. There’s been a lot of up-and-downs,” Schoeffel said. “I do miss softball and I know they are having a pretty good season, but I think we’re going to do it, too.”