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A true patriarch

Butler boys volleyball coach Liparulo surprised by celebration of his 30 years guiding the team

BUTLER TWP — Digs, spikes, kills, assists ... The words are music to Lew Liparulo’s ears.

Butler boys volleyball coach Lew Liparulo receives a plaque for his services from volleyball parent Amy Miller, honoring his 30 years of coaching the boys team. (Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle)

His passion for volleyball is obvious. So, too, are his humility and desire to stay anonymously in the background.

“If I knew they were doing this, I probably wouldn’t have come tonight,” the Butler boys volleyball coach spoke into the microphone, moments after receiving a commemorative plaque and being greeted by many of the Golden Tornado volleyball alumni he’s coached.

Now in his 30th year of coaching Butler varsity boys volleyball, he is the only head coach that program has ever known. He also coached the Tornado girls volleyball team from 1976 through 2005. Now 71, Liparulo has been coaching high school volleyball at Butler for 48 years.

Butler boys volleyball coach Lew Liparulo jokes with current players as alumni returned to honor the 30-year coach. (Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle)

“I’m pretty sure I’m the oldest volleyball coach in the WPIAL,” he said, smiling.

He is also taking the reins of the Laurel High School girls volleyball program this fall, filling in for former Butler junior varsity coach Jim Aggas, who cannot coach next season for personal reasons. Liparulo was Aggas’ assistant coach at Laurel last fall.

“He’s not slowing down at all ,” said Amy Miller, a volleyball parent and one of the organizers of the surprise celebration of Liparulo’s career. The celebration took place at the Tornado’s final home regular season match against Seneca Valley recently.

Butler boys volleyball coach Lew Liparulo receives a plaque for his coaching services as alumni returned to honor the 30-year coach. (Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle)

Jessica Whaley played on Liparulo’s girls team at Butler from 1991-94. Her son, Cash, is a sophomore on the Tornado boys team this year.

“He’s always been a fair coach who preaches hard work and dedication,” Whaley said. “He’s never changed in that regard. He worked us hard and developed a work ethic in us we could carry through life later on.

“He’s just a good guy ... the kind of guy who should be working with kids.”

Tim Liparulo, Lew’s son, also played volleyball for him. He became Butler’s junior high volleyball coach for 11 years and spent two seasons as the varsity assistant coach. Tim eventually became the assistant principal at Sto-Rox.

He also played for the first boys volleyball team at Butler in 1994.

“We were scrambling a bit that first year, but Dad taught us so much about the game,” Tim recalled. “We were able to hold our own. Every team he’s ever coached, he demanded you give your all on the court. I used that mind-set to guide me through life as well.”

Butler boys volleyball coach Lew Liparulo talks to the players during his team’s 3-2 victory over Seneca Valley recently. Justin Guido/ Butler Eagle 05/11/23

Jim Heltzell and Chuck Kreinbucher also played for the Tornado’s first boys volleyball team. That team came about partly because two boys — Chad Mowry and Bryan Deal — suited up and played for the girls team the year before.

“I remember those guys doing that,” Liparulo said. “It showed how badly they wanted to play volleyball. It helped the process along.”

Heltzell ran cross country and track while Kreinbucher played basketball and baseball at Butler. Both decided to try their hand at volleyball in that first season.

“Volleyball requires a whole different skill set and I was intrigued by it,” Heltzell said. “I knew Lew’s oldest son and I wanted to play volleyball for Coach Liparulo. Even though none of us knew a whole lot about the game, we were competitive and that was because of him.

“Coach is a true leader, a very inspirational man.”

Kreinbucher said: “It’s amazing that he’s still coaching, but I can’t say I’m surprised by it. He loves that sport and he loves teaching kids. We were all beginners coming from other sports. He melded us together and made it work.”

Loren Mottern, Liparulo’s daughter, played volleyball on his girls team from 1996-99. She spent a season playing for Butler County Community College as well.

“He made us work, but I always wanted to play for him,” Mottern said. “He just had a knack for getting the most out of you. To think he’s been doing this for more than 40 years ... He loves it every bit as much now as when he started.”

Kaleb Proudfoot, a recent Butler graduate and former Golden Tornado volleyball player, was recently named all-conference as a member of Thiel College’s team.

“I was a tall kid in elementary school and Coach planted the seed in me about volleyball way back then,” Proudfoot said. “He was on me to play since I was 7 years old. He hunted me down in the hallways as I got older.

“He turned me into a volleball player. I always played basketball and lost a year of varsity volleyball to the COVID year. In three seasons, Coach made me a good enough player to have the opportunity to play in college. I will always owe him that.”

Liparulo’s teams have never won a WPIAL championship. He has no problem with that.

“We play in the toughest section in the state, bar none,” he said. “It is what it is. As long as I get the best out of my players, I’m happy.”

And they were happy to show appreciation of their coach on this night.

“I always love it when former players come back,” Liparulo said. “That makes this a great night.”

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