No matter how far Spring-Ford’s softball team was to go last season, at least one end result was known prior to the start — Tim Hughes’ 25th year as the Rams’ head coach would be his last.
Not even the glamor of winning the program’s first PIAA championship would be enough to change a decision set in stone.
“He told me at the beginning of last season that it would be his last regardless of the outcome,” said Shawn Corropolese, who enters his first season at the helm of Spring-Ford softball. “You never believe him because any coach can say it’s their last, but to actually do it is tough.”
Corropolese, a Spring-Ford alum of 1991, has been an assistant coach on Hughes’ staff for the last 22 years, now making the move from the first base box into the dugout as the Rams’ head coach.
In that time, Corropolese helped oversee four Pioneer Athletic Conference championship wins, a 68-game win streak against PAC opponents, four PIAA semifinal appearances and, of course, a coveted state title last spring — the first of any PAC team.
With that type of success, Corropolese’s intake of the events under Hughes has been duly noted over the years.
“I’ve learned a ton from Tim,” Corropolese said. “The program’s going to be run very similarly to how it’s been the last 20 years. Just me learning all the ins and outs and extra things that go along with being a head coach, that’s the learning curve that I’m going through at this point.”
Corropolese’s longtime tenure with the program has allowed for a relatively seamless transition, from seeing players coming up and those who are playing now.
And while he settles into his new position, Corropolese is keeping focus on the future in front of him rather than being transfixed on the past.
“We try to put last year in our rearview mirror,” Corropolese said. “The state championship is behind us at this point, it’s a totally different team. We’re basically starting fresh again.”
Spring-Ford isn’t the only softball program turning a new page. While the Rams’ head coaching position isn’t filled by a new face, Methacton’s entire staff is.
With the retirement of Cathy Miller, a 1968 Methacton graduate who led its softball program for 41 years, the Warriors will have new personnel in head coach Lee Terry, varsity assistant Stephanie Pijanowski and JV coach Meghan Brogan.
Terry brings with him 12 years of coaching experience in the realm of youth and travel. His two daughters also played under Miller during her tenure at Methacton.
“It’s going to be a change, it’s going to be a little adjustment, getting used to my coaching style compared to hers,” Terry said on taking over for Miller. “Especially for the seniors who had her for three years.”
Pijanowski played and coached at Albright University. Brogan coached at Conestoga and Downingtown West and is a USA Softball of Pennsylvania Hall of Fame inductee of the 2022 class.
“Probably the most overqualified JV coach you’ll ever find,” Terry said on Brogan, laughing.
Methacton’s new coaching staff takes over a program that, under Miller, went 538-241, won 16 Suburban One championships, a PAC title (2014), made 30 district playoff appearances and won a District 1 final in 1994.
Over Miller’s 41 years — barring a canceled COVID-19 2020 season — just four years had sub .500 records.
“It’s all anybody at the school has known,” Terry said on Miller’s legacy. “There are kids on the team whose moms played for Coach Miller. It’s all Methacton knows.”
First-year head coaches replacing multiple-decade-long heads of programs haven’t been exclusive to softball. Former player and legion coach Alex Condello will be taking the reins of Owen J. Roberts’ baseball team after the retirement of Greg Gilbert.
Gilbert coached Owen J. Roberts the previous 23 years, leading the program to six PAC championship wins and the team’s first and only state final appearance in 2010.
Owen J. Roberts will also have a new boys lacrosse head coach, Kevin Mo. Mo replaces Mikey Zadroga, the latter having accepted a head coaching position for the Division II Davis & Elkins men’s lacrosse team. Zadroga, a former Upper Merion standout and 2019 Marquette grad, led the Wildcats to the PAC championship game and District 1 Class 3A playoffs for the first time since 2014 in his lone season with the program last year.
Mo is a Perkiomen Valley graduate and former standout goalie who went on to a playing career at Seton Hill University where he was a USILA All-American as a senior.
Liz Watson will be the new head coach for Pottsgrove girls lacrosse. Kirstin Urie, who led the program for 11 seasons, will stay on as an assistant.
Peter Gilmore will be the new head coach for Daniel Boone’s boys track team after Patrick Kelly’s four-season stay.
Two new boys tennis coaches enter the scene as well. Tyler Triolo takes over for Eric Bowe at Upper Merion, ending the latter’s 13-year tenure with the Vikings. Triolo is a Spring-Ford graduate and former local standout, the PAC singles champion in 2011. Donna Laskosky replaces Mark Schwegler at Boyertown.