Jessie Franko, the new head coach of the Brandywine Heights High School girls' volleyball team will have a lot pressure to deal with this year. Franko takes over a team that has not lost more than one league game in a season since 2007. Winning is a tradition for this team and Franko will be expected to continue that tradition.
She takes over for Coach Mike Pienta, who retired as head coach of the team last year after 23 seasons in the position. Franko will have big shoes to fill.
She has the experience. She spent the last four years as the head coach of the Penn State Berks women's volleyball team, where she led her team to an overall record of 8-98-49, and was named the NEAC Division Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2011.
She was also the head coach of the Brandywine Heights boys' team for two years, when she took a team that was 1-14 in 2002 to a 15-0 record and a division championship in 2005 and 2006. She was also named the Berks County Coach of the Year in 2008.
Franko, along with her assistant coaches, Brent Gechter, Eden Reichard and Meggan Kanter, now have the job of keeping the winning tradition that the girls' volleyball team has built at Brandywine Heights.
They will do that this year with a lot of varsity experience on her team. They did lose some key players from last year's 11-1 (in the Berks League) team, but they also have a lot of talent coming back.
"We have a great nucleus of players returning this year who've had significant varsity experience and a few younger girls who will see some varsity time,' said Franko. "We only have two seniors and most of the varsity squad are juniors, so they've been playing together for a long time. We're all excited for the season to begin, and see how things evolve.'
As far as goals are concerned, it's pretty much the same every year at Brandywine Heights. First they want to win the division, then the league, then go as far in the district and state playoffs as they can go.
Last year, the Lady Bullets made it to the Berks semifinals before losing to Exeter, 3-0, then won two district matches before losing to Berks Catholic in the semifinals, 3-0.
This year, the goal is to at least improve on last year's performance.
"The key to our season being successful is for the girls to perform like a team,' said Franko. "We've been working a lot on a new offense and it will be a challenge for them to pull each other up if one or more is struggling. So far the coaching staff has been pleased with how well the girls are playing in a new system.'
Count on the team to contend once again for a division championship. After that, the team has the talent to go far, but only time will tell how far they go.'