Thane Fanfulik was looking forward to sharing his knowledge and experience in his first season as boys volleyball coach at Dublin Scioto.
Those plans, however, were put on hold when the Ohio High School Athletic Association initially postponed and later canceled spring sports because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Fanfulik is one of many first-year head coaches in the area who didn't get an opportunity to coach this spring, at least not in a regular-season contest. Athletes in baseball, softball, lacrosse and track and field had been practicing with their respective teams for more than two weeks when the OHSAA postponed the spring sports season March 13. The season was canceled April 20.
Boys volleyball is not sanctioned by the OHSAA, but its governing body, the Ohio High School Boys Volleyball Association, adhered to the OHSAA's no-contact period that initially spanned from March 17 through May 1 but was later extended to June 1.
Fanfulik was hired by Scioto in February to replace Doug Arden, who stepped down after three seasons during his second tenure with the program. Arden previously had coached the Irish from 2005-13.
It marked the first coaching job for Fanfulik, a 2013 Hilliard Darby graduate who played for Quincy University in Illinois.
"I was really looking forward to the season, especially getting in there and getting to know the group of guys that we had," said Fanfulik, a 6-foot-5 setter who helped lead Darby to the Division I state championship in 2013. "They definitely piqued my interest and I wanted to have a season with them. I'm sad to see that we're not able to, because after getting to know the guys for two, three weeks, I was looking forward to going into practice every day and hanging out with them."
Fanfulik was named first-team all-state, all-region and all-OCC-Ohio Division as a senior, when the Panthers went 24-2 overall and 10-0 in the league and defeated Cincinnati Elder 25-17, 25-15, 25-27, 25-23 in the state final.
"When I first met the (players on Scioto's) team, we sat down and (athletics director Nick Magistrale) introduced me and I told them all my accolades and who I was and where I played," Fanfulik said. "As a first-year coach, I was trying my best to find out what's the best coaching style."
Irish senior setter Jonathan Heasley said Fanfulik displayed his state championship ring during the first meeting.
"I really liked him at the first meeting," Heasley said. "We did a lot of things early on and we improved a lot. It's really disappointing. The first weeks of practice were going really well with him. The first time we met him, he actually wore his ring. We all asked him about that. It was really impressive."
Heasley was optimistic that Fanfulik would help Scioto get back on the winning track this spring. The Irish finished 7-13 last season and 4-15 in 2018 after going 20-4 and reaching a Division II state semifinal in 2017.
"My sophomore and junior years didn't end too well, so we wanted to come back this year and have a great season with Thane," Heasley said. "It was going to be a lot of fun."
According to Heasley, Fanfulik also was looking forward to facing his alma mater in OCC-Cardinal play.
"We talked about playing Darby," Heasley said. "He was putting a lot of confidence into us, which really encouraged us. We were really excited to go at Darby this year and play against his old school."
Austin Ford was looking forward to his first season as the boys lacrosse coach at Olentangy.
A 2004 graduate of Westerville North, Ford coached his alma mater last season before being hired to coach the Braves.
He replaced Daniel Warren, who stepped down after one season at Olentangy to take over the program at Dublin Coffman, which beat Cincinnati St. Xavier 13-8 to win the Division I state championship last season. Warren is a 2007 Coffman graduate.
Olentangy finished 12-9 last season, losing to Dublin Jerome 21-12 in a Division I regional semifinal.
"It's disappointing," said Ford, who was an assistant at North from 2011-14 before leaving to work with Thomas Worthington's feeder program. "It's my first year with a great program. I haven't been this excited about a season since I coached in Worthington and we won a state championship. It hurts me to think about them not being able to play this season."
Ford helped guide a Worthington middle school boys team, the Worthingway and McCord Cardinals, to a state title in 2017 and a fourth-place state finish in 2018. He also was an assistant coach at Jerome when the Celtics won the Division II state title in 2010.
Like Warren, Brady Walston and Kyle Jefferson had returned to their alma maters this spring.
Walston, a 2014 graduate of Westerville Central, was in her first season as Warhawks girls lacrosse coach.
"I was looking forward to coaching the team," Walston said. "I had a bunch of game plans, offensive plays ready. All these girls were very excited to utilize skills on the field that they've never done before that I was trying to teach them."
Jefferson, a 2010 graduate of Whitehall-Yearling, was in his first year as coach of the Rams' boys track and field team. He had served as an assistant last year under Aaron Johnson, who resigned after three seasons.
"It's definitely disappointing and a lot of the kids were pretty disappointed, too," Jefferson said. "If I hadn't had coached last year, it would have been really tough this year only being around some of these kids for two or three weeks before we all had to go home. I knew most of the kids. We built up a relationship last year. ... We were going to do some pretty good things."