Ken Wunderley profiles Montour volleyball coaches Brendon Aleski and Kirsten Burkes. Read his story below.
Montour High School volleyball coach Brendon Aleski has decided to cut his coaching duties in half to spend more time with his family.
"During the boys season, I decided to step down as girls coach," Aleski said. "My wife and I [just had] our second child [Tuesday] and I want to spend more time with them."
Aleski, a Montour alumnus, coached the girls team for 13 years and led the Spartans to nine WPIAL playoff appearances.
"I can always go back into coaching," Aleski said. "I can't go back and watch my kids grow up again. It was an easy decision."
Aleski and his wife, Lyndsay, also have an older son, Keegan.
"Keegan will be 3 in September," Aleski said. "During boys season, he told me that he didn't like volleyball. I'm sure he felt I was spending more time with the team than with him. Stepping away from the girls team will allow me to spend more time with Keegan and Caleb [name of the newborn]."
Aleski has decided to stay on as boys coach, but isn't sure for how long.
"I'll just wait and see how things go," Aleski said. "I really enjoy coaching, but family is more important."
Aleski has a lot of good memories from his 13 years with the girls team, but two years stand out more than the others.
"The 2004 team was the first in which I coached the seniors all four years," Aleski said. "Our 2008 team was the best I coached. We lost in the WPIAL semifinals. It was the furthest Montour had gone in the playoffs since 1972. Those two seasons have special meaning for me."
A member of Aleski's 2008 team will be replacing him, as Kirsten Burkes has been hired as the new head coach.
"It's a great opportunity to coach at my alma mater," said Burkes, a 2009 graduate. "I obviously have a history here. I had such a good time when I played here. Now I get a chance to coach the team."
Burkes, a 2013 graduate of Point Park University, has only one year of coaching experience.
"Sam Woods asked me to be his assistant at Moon last year," said Burkes, referring to a former Montour assistant and current head coach at Moon Area. "I also ran the middle school program at Montour in the spring."
Aleski is pleased with the hiring of Burkes.
"I recommended Kirsten for the job," Aleski said. "She's young and full of energy. I think she will do a great job. I'm really excited for her."
Burkes was a three-year letter-winners and two-year starter for Aleski. She was voted first-team All-WPIAL Class AA in 2007 and '08. She was also recognized on the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association All-State Team in 2008.
"Coach Aleski is a great guy," Burkes said. "I've known him for 10 years now and having his vote of confidence means a lot to me."
Burkes welcomes the pressure of following such a successful coach.
"There's obviously a little bit of pressure," Burkes said. "But I'm more excited than nervous. Coach Aleski built a successful program. My goal is to continue the winning tradition and hopefully take the program to the next step."
Burkes has already met with the team and begun conditioning workouts.
"We'll be getting together two or three days a week during the summer," Burkes said. "We should have a very good squad this year."
Montour has switched back to Class AA after spending the past two years in Class AAA. The Spartans have been placed in Section 2, along with Ambridge Area, Central Valley, Freedom Area, Lincoln Park, Quaker Valley and Sto-Rox.