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Valley Sports Report
THE VALLEY — Heather Hanson guided the Athens volleyball team to its first District championship game appearance in 15 years this fall, and has been named the 2020-21 Valley Sports Report “Coach of the Fall.”

Hanson took over a program that had floundered for a decade under a variety of coaches. In her first year, she took the Lady Wildcats to district playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. In her second season, Athens won its first postseason match since 2006, and this year the Lady Wildcats advanced to their first title match since 2005.

Hanson’s secret: she knows the game, can relay that knowledge to her players, and her players will run through a wall for her, which is really a big key for any successful coach.

“2020-21 Super 7 Coaches of the Fall:”
Heather Hanson, volleyball, Athens: See above.

Mike Bronson, cross country, Athens: Bronson coached the Wildcat boys to an unbeaten 10-0 record and their second consecutive NTL title. Bronson, along with Scott Riley and Mark Johnson, were named the NTL "Coaching Staff of the Year."

Jack Young, football, Athens: Young directed a dramatic Wildcat turnaround in 2020. Athens posted a 1-10 record in 2019 — one of the marks in program history — but bounced back with a 5-1 record in the regular season.

Nick Aiello, football, Tioga: Aiello directed the Tigers to a 5-1 record this spring, with wins over Waverly and Owego. The lone loss was a 29-23 thriller against Newark Valley. Aiello has a career record of 96-23 in 11 seasons.

Rich Pitts, girls soccer, Athens: Coming off back-to-back District 4 titles, Rich Pitts directed a very young Athens team to a 9-2-1 regular-season mark, and back into the postseason, before the season came to an end with a 3-2 loss to Shamokin.

Greg Hughey, boys soccer, Sayre: On the heels of a 1-11 record in his first season, Hughey directed Sayre to a 5-9 record and a trip to the District 4 playoffs. The improvement from one win to five wins is impressive in its own right, but the fact the Redskins played more than half the season without four-year starter Cody VanBenthuysen, who will play at Elmira College in the fall, makes it even more impressive.

Jake Lezak, boys soccer, Athens: Lezak directed the Wildcats to an 11-2 regular season mark, with both losses to league champ Wellsboro. Athens saw its season end in a 1-0 loss to Jersey Shore in the District 4 semifinals.

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