Kris Kern sent shockwaves through the local volleyball community this spring when he stepped down as coach of the Pickerington High School North girls team to accept the same position at Canal Winchester.
In seven seasons at North, Kern compiled a 172-14 record and guided the Panthers to seven OCC and four Division I district championships. They did not win any league or district titles in their first three seasons before Kern arrived in 2006.
North, which went 91-1 in OCC play under Kern and will enter the coming season on an 86-match winning streak in league play, finished 26-2 overall last season and reached a regional final before losing to eventual state runner-up Massillon Jackson 21-25, 25-14, 20-25, 25-20, 15-8.
Canal Winchester finished 7-15 overall last year, losing to Olentangy Liberty 25-14, 25-20, 25-11 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
"A lot of people think I'm nuts for making this move because I've developed Pickerington North into a state powerhouse and that program is loaded with plenty of talented young players who are eager to keep their tradition going," Kern said. "But I've already proven myself over the years when it comes to wins and losses, and I'm ready for a new challenge. I need to walk into a gym where people don't expect us to win every day and know that I'm getting the best out of my players every day."
Kern said the respect that he has for Canal Winchester athletics director and boys basketball coach Kent Riggs played a major role in his decision to take over the Indians' volleyball program. The two grew up together in Lancaster and have been friends for more than 40 years.
"I've always admired Kent as a coach and an A.D. and he has made me feel welcomed and appreciated," Kern said. "My wife (Shari) works as a nurse in Canal Winchester and we really like the community, too."
Kern's goal is to rebuild the Indians' program to the level at which it was under Colleen Ross, who had more than 500 wins and won the 1986 Class A state championship during her 27-year tenure as coach.
Ross stepped down after the 2010 season and was replaced by Tricia Nunemaker, who compiled a 23-23 record the past two seasons.
The Indians finished sixth (4-10) of eight teams in the MSL-Buckeye Division last season behind champion Bloom-Carroll (14-0). They will begin competing in the OCC-Cardinal Division this fall.
Also in the OCC-Cardinal are Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South. Worthington Kilbourne was in the league this past school year, but is moving to the OCC-Capital this fall.
"The commitment level will need to be different from all of us because Canal Winchester is evolving into a big school in a big OCC division and the competition is going to be stiff," Kern said. "The Canal Winchester community needs to step up and play at a higher level because the OCC is one of the most powerful conferences in the state.
"I'm going to coach the coaches and build this program from the youth level on up, starting with our recreation program and including our (junior varsity) program."
Kern has a career record of 686-71 in 33 seasons as a head coach at the varsity level. He coached now-defunct Columbus Wehrle from 1980-90, compiling a 150-25 record in 11 seasons and helping Wehrle reach the Division IV state final in 1990, which was its final season.
Kern then coached Kenyon College for two seasons and spent 13 seasons at Lancaster, where he led the Golden Gales to 13 OCC championships and two Division I district titles, before arriving at North.
"Kris has an outstanding background as a volleyball coach and has won everywhere he's been," Riggs said. "He will do a great job for us."
From 1984-92, Kern also coached the U.S. International Sports Exchange team, which competed in several countries, including Australia, England and Japan.
"I've been blessed with many great experiences through volleyball and it's been very rewarding the past month-and-a-half to watch my players' eyes when I tell them about competing in places like Australia and about competing for state championships," he said. "At Pickerington North, most of our girls played club volleyball and volleyball was their only sport. Here, we don't have many club players and most of our girls are playing two or three sports. But if that's what they love to do and they're still committed to our team, I'm OK with that.
"I'm starting over and having fun. I'd like to think we're going to improve on our win-loss record from last year, and we'll look to continue improving each season."
Buccilla named girls soccer coach
Emily Buccilla, a 2008 Pickerington Central graduate, has been named girls soccer coach, replacing Jim Stevens, who stepped down after nine seasons.
Last season, Canal Winchester finished 8-8-1 overall and placed second (5-1) in the MSL-Buckeye behind Bloom-Carroll (6-0).
"Jim gave us (nine) years and he was just ready to go in another direction," Riggs said.
Buccilla served as Pickerington North's junior varsity coach last fall and has coached club teams the past two years.
"I've grown up playing soccer my whole life and I wanted to continue to be involved in soccer through coaching," Buccilla said. "I'm excited about the challenge because we're going to have only one senior on our team this fall. We're moving to the (OCC-Cardinal) and the teams there are going to be a step up in competition, so we just want to compete well in our conference and see lots of positive growth."
Buccilla was a midfielder and four-year letterwinner at Central, earning first-team all-OCC-Ohio honors as a junior and senior and being named second-team all-league as a sophomore.
She then played four years at St. Bonaventure University in western New York.
"Emily's young and she brings a lot of enthusiasm to her job," Riggs said. "She was a good player and the girls should relate well to her."