In early January of this year, Harry Powell tendered his resignation at Lackawanna Trail High School for his positions of English teacher, athletic director, equipment manager, and golf coach. He had been with the school district since 1985, and since 2006 had served as athletic director.
In response to the longtime coach stepping aside, Joel Nietz was tapped to lead the Lions on the links.
Nietz, who has been playing since his high school days at Emmanuel Christian in Ohio, also spent several years working at the Country Club of Scranton and learning from their assistant pro.
“I enjoy the kids and the game,” said the Lackawanna Trail math teacher who aims to provide a new voice and new energy to the team. “I hope to use athletics to prepare kids for life.”
Coach Nietz has spoken briefly with Powell, but admits it was mostly logistics and budget themed conversations.
With a handful of returning players with varsity experience, Nietz will be looking for the younger guys to be working and improving daily.
He will also look to junior JP Gilroy to be a leader.
“I am going to try my hardest to be the leader the team needs, and make sure every swing counts,” said Gilroy.
“I really haven’t spoken much with Coach Nietz, but we are looking forward to a great season,” he added.
Gilroy continued, “I have been getting out this summer and playing, I like golf a lot. It really is a lifelong sport.”
In the short time since he has taken the reins, Nietz wanted the message of having fun while still improving to be paramount. But, now that the season is beginning, he will focus on improving the team’s short game.
Nietz said, “Enjoying time together and improving in a game they can play for the rest of their lives-that is what I want the kids to take with them,” as the team prepared for the Irving Jackman Tournament at Scranton Municipal Golf Course on Aug. 16.
Gilroy, who attended the Jackman Tournament as a freshman and sophomore, will head there again this season.
The team is still working on its roster, and Nietz is adapting to his role as coach.
“Once the season gets underway, we will have a better understanding and more information,” he explained.
He also added, “We are a young and developing team. We have some strength in the sophomore and junior classes, and hope for improvement in leadership, skill development, and performance this season.”
The Lions open their season on the road at Mountain View on August 19, and begin the official PIAA season on Friday, August 23 at Forest City.
They will host their home opener at Rock Creek Golf Course against Carbondale on Monday, August 26.
Roster: Seniors Josh Rzucidlo and Richie Cocchini. Juniors JP Gilroy, Andrew Kazmierczak, and Charles Austin. Sophomores Adam Jones, Nathan Wescott, Owen Austi, Corey Burns, Keith Dixon, George Duffy, Cole Patterson, Jackson Pieretti and Caleb Stuenzi. Freshmen Jeffrey Gallagher and Joe Shaw.
Schedule: Aug. 19 at Mountain View; Aug. 21 vs. Mid Valley; Aug. 23 at Forest City; Aug. 26 vs. Carbondale; Aug. 28 at Scranton Prep; Aug. 29 vs. Dunmore; Sept. 3 at Blue Ridge; Sept. 5 vs. Elk Lake; Sept. 9 vs, Riverside; Sept. 11 vs. Montrose; Sept. 12 at Western Wayne; Sept. 16 at Old Forge; Sept. 19 at Holy Cross; Sept. 23 vs. Lakeland. All matches begin at 4 p.m.