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Dan Solley named new Loyalsock girls soccer coach

Dan Solley had his interest piqued when he noticed the girls soccer coaching job at Loyalsock opened up. He even had parents of some players reach out to him and encourage him to apply. But soccer was the last thing on Solley’s mind.

His wife, Ammie, was battling cancer and Solley knew until his wife got her first clear results, he wouldn’t entertain the idea of coaching again. In January, Solley and Ammie got the news they hoped for when her positron emission tomography scan — or PET scan — came back clear.

Solley, with his wife’s support and nudging, inquired to Loyalsock athletic director Ron Insinger about the opening and was hired shortly thereafter as the new girls soccer coach.

“While it was flattering (to be asked to coach), I couldn’t even consider it until I knew Ammie’s scan results and that it would be OK with her,” Solley said. “Even though my better senses told me that it was crazy to even entertain the idea, through my wife’s full support and nudging, I sent Coach (Ron) Insinger a text and before I knew it, I was shaking his hand, taking the position.”

Solley was South Williamsport’s coach from 2017-18 and last year served as an assistant under Marc Lovecchio. He helped South Williamsport rebound from a losing season in 2016 and in his two years at the helm went 27-10-2. In 2018, the Mounties were 17-3 and were ranked in the state before falling to perennial district contender Southern Columbia in the District 4 semifinals.

Solley had previously coached a lot of the players at South Williamsport prior to them entering high school and knew coming into the position what to expect and strengths to build on. At Loyalsock, he isn’t in that same situation.

“Unlike South, when I took this job at Loyalsock, I had almost zero experience with the players. Other than knowing they had an excellent keeper, the only other things that I knew about them were that they had more than a handful of graduating seniors, they won three games last year and they scored only six goals all season long,” Solley said. “So with Marc (Lovecchio) over at South and Tony (Yerger) offically retired, my philosophies will be on full display this year without a net. So yes, this will be a great challenge.”

The Lancers are coming off the program’s first back-to-back losing seasons since 1997-98. The three wins are also the fewest in a season since the Lancers suffered a 1-16 campaign in 1994. The Lancers bring back plenty of players with experience however, including Grace Boos, Kathryn Schluter and goalie Mari Houseknecht. Those three were all HAC-III all-star selections. Houseknecht was a second-team goalie and Schluter and Boos were both honorable mention selections.

Solley did confirm that he would be keeping Lynnette Reitz with the program as an assistant coach, someone who was an assistant under longtime coach Ben Comfort at Loyalsock. Comfort is second all-time in wins at Loyalsock with 120, just two shy of tying Kyle Bidelspacher for the program’s all-time mark.

“She is a great holdover from Ben’s program and the girls will really benefit from her deep knowledge,” Solley said. “She will also provide great stability during the transition to the new systems of play and my style of coaching. The girls love her and she is a huge plus for everyone involved.”

Solley’s return to leading a program is under unique circumstances as the COVID-19 pandemic makes summer workouts and practices different and a bit more difficult than in years prior. Between social distancing, limited contact and mask wearing, it’s been a different sort of challenge for Solley.

“The pandemic has thrown me a bunch of curveballs so far. Just this week, I had the first chance to see the girls with a foot on the ball. All in all, I am pleased,” Solley said. “These players have put in a ton of work on their own during the quarantine.

“They are in shape and have been more than willing to take on all of my virtual assignments. Time will tell, but more than ever I feel very blessed to have another opportunity to coach and mentor kids. And more so than ever, I am excited to have my wife with me while I do it.”

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