Saint Vincent’s Sleith hangs up cleats to get head start on coaching career at alma mater
Monday, June 1, 2020 | 3:18 PM
Surprisingly, you won’t get any from Alona Sleith.
A softball star at Saint Vincent who had two years left to play, Sleith gave up the game to try her hand at coaching.
A former all-region and all-conference player who led the Bearcats in batting average (.392) and RBIs (40) last season, Sleith was set to begin her coaching career this spring at Yough, her high school alma mater.
When coronavirus shut down sports, however, that opportunity was taken away. Softball, which had become a staple in her life, was gone — in any form.
She was able to work with her new players only for a few practices and a scrimmage.
“Softball has been part of my life since I was 4, and it is something I am very passionate about,” said Sleith, a junior at Saint Vincent. “I miss the players I got the opportunity to coach and the excitement everyone has for the sport.”
Sleith broke onto the scene as a freshman two years ago when she set an SVC single-season record with 11 home runs. She hit .416 and drove in 38 runs.
A key player on Yough’s PIAA Class 3A title team when she was a junior, Sleith continues to chase a business degree at Saint Vincent and hopes to coach at Yough next season alongside longtime coach Dutch Harvey.
When former Yough assistant Keith Waywood decided to step away, Sleith saw an opening.
“I thought it would be a good idea to try something new and start now, rather than later,” she said.
Harvey was pleased to have Sleith on staff. A player of her ilk could provide not only first-hand advice on hitting and winning but also provide a young, female voice in the dugout.
“Alona is going be a great asset to the program, and I’m looking forward to her adding to the team,” Harvey said. “I also want to get more of my former players involved, including my daughter, Allie, now that she has graduated from Seton Hill.”
Sleith misses playing the game, but she does not regret hanging up her cleats.
“I feel as if there was a possibility I could have given more,” she said. “But, I thought as if I could give more to future college players and help my home school.”
Harvey said he had an assistant in 2016, Angela Varhula, who joined the Cougars after coaching at Penn-Trafford. He sees similarities in Sleith and her entrance to coaching.
“She was a former Renegade player and played at Bethany,” Harvey said of Varhula. “She was great with the girls, and the players all loved the fact that we had a female former player on staff and they could all relate to her in ways that we could not as men. I wanted to to get that back, and I am sure that Alona will.”
Sleith has played for Harvey since she was 7.
“She knows my coaching style, and she can relate to the young ladies and can communicate with them more on their level just as Coach Varhula did with Alona and her teammates.
“It’s my personal feeling that it is always nice to have that perspective available for the girls.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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