New coach Meaghan Volek wants to continue Burrell girls basketball tradition

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Thursday, November 16, 2017 | 11:57 PM


Meaghan Volek remembers Burrell most for the smell of chlorine — pungent in the gym, and stronger still in the locker room. And given her allergy to the chemical, that made her appearances there with the Kittanning girls basketball team particularly unenjoyable.

The odor no longer lingers thanks to renovations, but that's not the only change in the air at Burrell. The WPIAL winter sports season begins Friday, the first day of official practice, with Volek taking over as coach of the Alle-Kiski Valley's most successful girls basketball team of the past decade.

“Things are going well,” Volek said. “I'm excited to be the head coach here at Burrell High School. Burrell girls basketball has such a rich tradition. We've had a lot of great players come through the program, and I'm very excited to continue that tradition and also build upon it.”

Other new coaches in the A-K Valley this winter include Hart Coleman and Steve Elsier at Plum. Coleman will coach the Mustangs' boys, and Elsier the girls.

A former post player at Kittanning, Volek was a student assistant coach at Allegheny College and coached at Brookville High School for three years. The Burrell job marks her first as a head coach.

“I think it's any coach's dream to be able to be in control of the program and put their stamp on any kind of program,” she said. “I'm very excited to give it a go. Burrell has a lot of great traditions, so it's not a lot of change that has to happen. We're just looking to continue the momentum and build upon the successes they've had.”

Volek replaces Meghan Ziemianski, who led Burrell to a 123-37 record and WPIAL playoff appearances in each of her six seasons as coach.

That run included 30 postseason games, a WPIAL championship game appearance and PIAA semifinal run in 2014 and four consecutive state playoff appearances from 2013-16. A pair of future Division I players in Sydney Bordonaro (Pepperdine) and Natalie Myers (Youngstown State) starred for the Bucs in that time.

Burrell slipped to a 9-14 record in 2016-17 but extended its playoff streak to six seasons, falling to South Park in the WPIAL Class 4A first round.

“I think one of our biggest challenges is trying to build the program just in terms of numbers,” Volek said. “We're just trying to get a lot of girls in the junior high, get them in the elementary program, building those fundamentals there so we have the players to compete at this level.”

Volek came to Burrell as a math teacher in 2016, and although she didn't coach at any level last season, she frequently attended girls basketball and other athletic contests. In addition to building up the numbers, Volek hopes to create a bigger connection between the community and the program.

“One of our big goals in the program is making sure the academics are shored up and taken care of,” she said. “Another big goal is to start to get the community involved in Burrell basketball again. I come to wrestling matches, and you just see how there's not an open seat in the gym. In terms of a long-term goal, that's one: to generate that level of excitement for girls basketball in this community.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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