NEW FRANKLIN After some offseason surprises, a new era is set to begin for the Manchester girls basketball program this winter.
Shawn Zavodney will take over the coaching reigns, replacing Tucker Pappas, whose contract was not renewed at the conclusion of last season. Pappas’ exit was a surprise to some, as he is the winningest coach in program history, compiling a 229-75 record (.753 winning percentage) with nine conference titles and a regional appearance.
In the final two year's of his tenure, his teams slipped to 10-13 and 5-18 and in the wake of his departure, the district turned to Zavodney, who is no stranger to the program, serving on Pappas staff the past two seasons in addition to having a long and successful stint at the middle school level.
"I feel very privileged to have been asked to take this on," Zavodney said. "It has been a very strong and steady program and I intend to keep that way."
Zavodney wants to play a up-tempo style ball with his club and believes that the composition of the roster will facilitate that approach. He believes that there is plenty of athleticism on the roster, making it easy to push the pace and create scoring chances.
Manchester will return five letterwinners, led by seniors Jordan Campbell, a 5-foot-5 guard, and Kenzie Ferguson, a 5-foot-11 forward.
Campbell led her team last season by dishing out 3.3 assists per game and was third in scoring, averaging at 6.7 points per contest, while Ferguson was tops in rebounding with 9.0 per outing and averaged 6.8 points, 2.3 steals and 2.0 assists.
Along with Campbell and Ferguson, the Panthers will also return senior letterwinners Ashley Forret, a 5-foot-5 guard/forward, and Tristan Zavodney, a 5-foot-10 forward, and junior Maddy McFadden, a 5-foot-6 guard.
"All four of our seniors will play a critical role in this years success," Zavodney said. "Jordan (Campbell), and Kenzie (Ferguson) are really the two that have taken leadership roles with the team."
One newcomer who expected to contribute right away is freshman Karli Anker, a 5-foot-5 point guard. Ankler is the daughter of assistant coach Jay Ankler and will be among those looking to replace the production of graduated senior standout Sam VanScoy, who was an all-league selection, averaging 13.1 points, and 4.1 rebounds per game.
Despite all of the changes and new faces, Zavodney believes his unit is ready to starts its climb back to the top of the Principals Athletic Conference standings.
The goal, the first-year varsity head coach noted, is a familiar one: to win the league. It was a regular occurrence for much of the past decade, but as other schools have stepped up their level of play, Manchester has found it tough getting back to the top spot in the standings.
"Our goal is to win the PAC-7," Zavodney said. "I wouldn't have the girls strive for anything less. A very good coaching staff with fresh ideas and a group of girls, who are really responding well so far. I expect it to be a good year barring any injuries."
One positive in chasing that goal, according to Zavodney, is having an experienced team led by seniors who bring maturity to the court. While playing a fast pace, he believes that with the senior class setting the tone, playing quickly doesn’t have to mean losing anything on defense. However, playing that fast pace could tax a team that, at present, doesn’t have a ton of depth.
Zavodney admitted there there are question marks beyond the first six players in the rotation and the Panthers will be counting on the next few players in the mix to develop and grow as the season wears on. He expects Orrville, Tuslaw and Fairless to be strong once again, but sees balance across the league and said he wouldn’t be surprised to see other teams in the mix as well.
Two former Manchester players, Kayci Krzynowek (varsity assistant) and Autumn Brown (junior varsity), are on the coaching staff and the
Panthers are scheduled to tip-off their campaign on today at the Chippewa Thanksgiving Classic against Wayne County foe Northwestern.