On Thursday, Central High officially hired a new head volleyball coach, just a little over a week before the start of the school year.
Andrea Kneser takes over a Lady Bear program that has fallen on hard times, and struggled to find consistency in the coaching department.
“I’m very excited for the season,” Kneser said. “It’s a great group of girls; great talent, great heart, and I’m looking forward to the season.”
She’ll embark on her rookie campaign as a head coach on the prep level, though she has coached ages 15-18 for the past four years at Impact Volleyball Academy in Winter Haven.
Two seasons ago she was an assistant JV coach at Winter Haven High, and last year a JV and varsity assistant at Lake Region.
She played four seasons at Eustis High, then two years at Pensacola State College and two more at NAIA Webber International University in Babson Park.
As a senior at Eustis in 2006, she and a partner qualified for the AAU Junior Olympics for beach volleyball.
Kneser had played volleyball since she was 9 years old, until a knee injury in college ended her career and sent her into the coaching ranks.
“Even though she’ll be a first-year coach, she has experience with high school athletes and experience playing at the next level,” Central athletic director Al Sorrentino said.
“It took us a while to find somebody we felt comfortable with. I didn’t want to go through the things going on even before I was athletic director.
“We were looking for someone to come in and stabilize the program. We’ve got talented kids in our volleyball program and hopefully she’s the one to help them reach their potential.”
???Since Vicki Weaver stepped down after five seasons at the helm in the spring of 2009, the Lady Bears endured five previous coaching changes.
Last year Anthony DiSciascio, initially headman in 2010-11, had to retake the position after four matches when Alyson Wagoner stepped down.
DiSciascio had been an assistant under Emily Gore in 2009, the last time Central advanced to regionals. When Gore left for Nature Coast the following summer, Kristi Langworthy was hired, then replaced by DiSciascio on the eve of the season for undisclosed reasons.
Over the past three years, the Lady Bears have gone 24-44, finishing 9-13 in 2012. Their last district championship came in 2006.
Central should have All-County middle hitter Samantha Bishop back in the fold for her senior campaign. As a junior, she recorded 306 kills and 38 aces after DiSciascio took over.
The Lady Bears also moved down a classification in the new district assignments, shifting from Class 6A to 5A.
“From what I’ve heard in the past, they’ve had changes in coaches,” Kneser said. “They were looking for someone who is passionate about the game, who will give the program the attention that it needs. I have all the passion in the world for volleyball.
“I’m really looking forward to this year being a rebuilding year. Seeing the potential the girls have, I knew quite a few seniors have come up to me and said they want to play at the next level. My goal is to get them where they need to be.”
Kneser, currently a long-term sub, will teach math at Central once she becomes certified, which should happen next week.
She said she had previously turned down the Lady Bear gig three times, but was inspired following her wedding last month, by a gift she received from a former player. It was an essay the player had written detailing those who had influenced her most.
Kneser was one of those listed, and it brought her to the realization that she wanted to take this next step – and stick around for a while.
“Any coach comes out here and hopes for a winning season,” Kneser said. “I think a lot of the girls had bad experiences and I want to turn that around. I want to teach them the game of volleyball, and have them come in and do great and excel, on and off the court.”
By the numbers: Central volleyball (2009-12)
Year Record Head coach
2009 13-9* Emily Gore
2010 9-14 Anthony DiSciascio
2011 6-17 Anthony DiSciascio
2012 9-13 Alyson Wagoner (1-3)/Anthony DiSciascio (8-10)
* Denotes district runner-up