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Prep Sports

Joliet West Tigers have familar faces as new coaches

While there are a few area schools that have had a relatively small turnover in head coaches from the 2018-19 sports season to the upcoming one, many others are looking at several major changes in their programs as to who will be in charge of leading their various programs.

One of those schools that will see the effects of coaching changes right away is Joliet West, which has four new head coaches this year, including two of those newcomers who will be leading teams during the upcoming fall season.

But Tigers athletic director Steve Millsaps feels good about his new head coaches since all of them have had some type of involvement with their programs in recent years.

A major move is in a sport that the Tigers have been very good at throughout this decade: competitive cheerleading. Coach Amy DiForti qualified eight-straight teams for state competition and led the program to Large Division state titles in both 2016 and 2018 as well as a second-place finish in 2017 in what is West's best three-year run in any sport.

The new Tigers competitive cheer coach is Raven Moore, who competed in and has coached with the program, which gives Millsaps optimism that the program's success will continue.

"Raven was a former cheer athlete and track athlete for us and has been our J-V cheer coach for the last few years," Millsaps said. "So she wants to continue what Amy has done with the program and build on that."

Both of West's soccer teams will have new head coaches this year, but again, the moves won't come as a big shock to the athletes in those two sports.

Mike O'Shea takes over for Patrick Korthauer in boys soccer in the fall while Alan Stewart will now lead the girls team, which O'Shea had coached the past four seasons. O'Shea served as an assistant with the boys while Stewart assisted in the girls program. A bonus for O'Shea is that he'll be assisted by Neil Lucchetti, West's boys volleyball coach, who excelled in both soccer and volleyball during his playing days at Lincoln-Way East.

"Mike [O'Shea] was a guy who came here with very little coaching experience and worked his way up to be the girls coach, and he is very passionate about the sport and the kids, and we're very talented on the soccer field," Millsaps said. "And having an assistant coach like Neil, who has head coaching experience, will help. Alan has been here the last four years coaching and teaching, so I'm looking forward to him taking over the girls program."

The other new Tigers head coach is Nick Koenig, who takes over from Danielle Maynard in girls swimming. Koenig has served as an assistant for both the girls and boys programs and has plenty of local connections, so that transition should be another smooth one.

As for the rest of West's fall teams, Millsaps expects to see them bring a certain degree of toughness to their contests, which likely is going to be necessary if the Tigers hope to challenge the many other good schools in the Southwest Prairie Conference.

Five individuals return as fall head coaches for the Tigers: Al Mart (girls volleyball), Bill Lech (football), Brian Newman (boys cross country), Kit Gillman (girls tennis) and Matt Almon (girls cross country).

"We've focused a lot about accountability this whole year, and I think we have some great student athletes that are being leaders on and off the field," Millsaps said. "Coach Lech and his football staff had some great summer attendance, so I feel that we're going to be very competitive. You can't control the wins and losses, but we're going to be a beast to play in every game, so we'll see what we can do.

"Coach Mart has a lot of girls returning in volleyball, and they were very competitive in a challenging conference, so the future looks pretty good, and we'll be tough. We talk about our Tiger Pride core values, and the "t" is for toughness. Our base has been really solid for the last few years, and some of the stuff the coaches are getting these student athletes to buy into is the toughness and fighting through adversity.

"When you have a team like Heather [Suca] had with softball bringing home a third-place trophy, it starts getting in other kids' minds that maybe they can do that. It's not a hope and a dream when you see recent trophies and athletes from those teams in the building that have been at a high level. It's nice to take the momentum we had in the spring into this season."

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