As far as Coaching Legends go these days, PCHS's Alan Knight is about the best kept secret around in the state of Virginia. The fact that Alan is a neighbor of mine here in Page County made me want to take a closer look at his amazing career with the Panthers. The 1975 PCHS graduate returned to his Alma mater after graduating from Eastern Mennonite College (which has since become EMU) back in the fall of 1981.
You have to remember that my older brother Wayne has spent his entire adult life in the teaching/ school administration industry so I truly respect that Knight has been on the job done at PCHS for what is now his 28TH season. For almost 3 decades Knight has led the Panthers softball and volleyball programs for the school that campus sits just north of the town of Shenandoah on US-340.
28 seasons of coaching two sports full time plus helping out where needed in other areas as well. Knight mentioned spending some time in charge of 8TH grade basketball and the golf team during his tenure at the school. Last night was my first time inside the gym of PCHS and I am not quite sure how that was possible. I have lived here for a few years now and covered various sporting events that involved the Panthers but not once were they playing at home until last night.
I am not sure I was technically covering their match last night as much as I was trying to spend some time with both Knight and Strasburg Rams head coach Suzanne Mathias while watching their respective teams battle on the court. I had bumped into Alan a number of times during the past school year and always talked about wanting to tell part of his amazing story. The bonus reason for the story being amazing is his own lack of desire to have his story told.
"When we talked last down at Christopher Newport (VHSCA ALL-Star Games) you asked me about the number of wins in each sport and I honestly don't know the answer to that question," Knight said. "It has never been about wins and losses or about me, it has always been about the kids."
Coach spent about 30 minutes talking with me about his programs following their 4TH match of the season Thursday night. One of the first things you will notice in the Panther gym is the four VOLLEYBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIP banners that hang from the rafters. The years were 1986,1989,1990 & 1991 with the three straight titles still being in the record books for streaks. Four times in a six year run, the volleyball season ended with Knight and his Panthers bringing home the trophy.
During his time at PCHS Knight has seen the game go through a number of changes. The two biggest were the time of the year they play and the other being when the high school switched over to scoring on every point versus only on serve. The teams were competing in the Winter time in direct competition with basketball before making the move to the fall slot.
Knight made the trip down to the Hampton Roads area this summer to be with two of his former athletes as they competed in the 37TH Annual All-Star games. Ashley Henry (Volleyball) and Megan Viafora (Softball) were both voted to compete in this past seasons East-West competition for the Class of 2008. These two ladies are just the most recent student-athletes to have outstanding varsity careers at PCHS under Knight.
Henry spent four seasons patrolling the volleyball court for Knight and during that span went from the 2005 Most Improved Player to finishing her career as a 2008 All-State Honorable Mention. Henry led an over-achieving Panther squad that advanced into the post season last year before being eliminated by Strasburg. Henry also starred on the basketball court for the Lady Panthers while competing for the track team as well.
Henry was not the lone stand out that just finished competing for Knight and his Panthers. Viafora also finished her career with a trip down to the All-Star competition for her efforts on Knight's 2008 Softball team. Viafora collected 1ST team Shenandoah District spots in each of the past four seasons for her softball efforts. Like Henry, she also competed on the basketball court and ran Cross Country for the Panthers while at PCHS.
Championship banners hanging in the gym and a long list of special athletes he has helped a long the way, I had to ask if there were any defining moments during his stay at PCHS?
"There have been simply too many teams and too many special student-athletes for me to try and select a few," Knight noted. " I can honestly say that coaching has been very kind to me over the years here at Page."
This seasons VB team looks quite a bit like the 2007 squad, minus the efforts of Henry. They play aggressive and appear to listen to Knight without question in their efforts to improve. Once again the team has a limited amount of height in a sport where height is often king. The Lady Panthers will need to look for ways to out hustle the opposition in 2008 as the tallest player once again is listed at 5'7.
2008 Roster: 2008
#3- Brittney Wolfe 5'4 Junior
#4-Lindsey MacLeod 5'6 Senior
#6-Courtney Bickers 5'7 Junior
#10-Lacey MacLeod 5'6 Senior
#11-Danni Short 5'3 Sophomore
#12-Rachel Breeden 5'2 Senior
#14-Tiffany Aleshire 5'7 Sophomore
#15-Anissa Price 5'6 Senior
#20-Niki Zwanzig 5'7 Senior
#22-Liz Bowles 5'7 Senior
#24-Kori Jenkins 5'5 Sophomore
Remaining Home Matches :
1. vs. William Monroe 9/2
2. vs. Rappahannock 9/4
3.vs. Luray 9/25
4.vs. Eastern Mennonite 10/6
5.vs. Riverheads 10/7
6.vs. Buffalo Gap 10/9
7.vs. Wilson Memorial 10/16
8.vs. Stonewall Jackson 10/21 - Senior Night
Local road games: 9/18 @ Rappahannock Conty , 10/2 @ Stonewall , 10/14 @ Luray
The Lady Panthers stand at 2-2 following the Thursday match vs. Strasburg as Knight prepares his team for another exciting season of play in the Class A Shenandoah District.
"Wilson Memorial should be the team to beat this season in the district but there a number of good teams that we will be facing," Knight added. "Our team works hard and they are very coach able and we should continue to improve as the season moves forward."
The team does once again to be very responsive to their long time coach who's effort might not be fully appreciated until he is no longer working the sidelines at PCHS. Entering his 28TH season of double duty, I had to ask Coach if the end is in sight?
"I will coach here until I don't enjoy coaching anymore," Knight stated. "I have had a number of people tell me that I will be coaching forever but I am taking it one year at a time from here out."
After watching Knight lead his young team on the court Thursday night I have to believe we are going to have him around for a couple more seasons...
Can't beat the price of $4.00 for a ticket to a Lady Panthers home match so take a look at the schedule listed above and come out a watch Knight continue to lead by example as he coaches his next group of student-athletes...
I would love to hear from any former athletes that has a Coach Knight story that they would like to share!