Hanover High School girls’ volleyball coach Reagan Bitler is The Evening Sun’s All-Area Coach of the Year for 2011.
Hanover High School girls' volleyball coach Reagan Bitler is The Evening Sun's All-Area Coach of the Year for 2011. (THE EVENING SUN --- FILE)
Hanover High girls' volleyball coach Reagan Bitler believes teaching and coaching are similar.

He asks his eighth-grade social studies students not just to memorize facts, but to learn how they connect to others.

During volleyball practice, he teaches certain skills by themselves, but hopes his players can make the connection between skills and implementing them in matches.

Bitler's work in the classroom earned him the 2011-12 Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the Shippensburg University Study Council.

His coaching earned him the 2011 All-Area Girls' Volleyball Coach of the Year.

"It's a privilege to coach in York County," Bitler said. "The area I came from isn't a strong volleyball area. To move here 19 years ago and work my way into having a program and to build that program to compete with some of the best programs in the state, when you get recognized, it's an accomplishment.

"But more importantly, I'm more proud of my players and the school community. It's a Hanover volleyball program recognition. I want to see my students and players learn and enjoy what they're doing."

The Hawkettes (13-5, 10-2 YAIAA III) started five seniors who played extensively last season, but the team showed tremendous development throughout the year.

On Sept. 20, the Hawkettes lost in three consecutive sets to Delone Catholic at home. Less than a month later, while missing top scoring threat Diamond Sorrells because she was ineligible, the Hawkettes became the first team to beat Delone in a game.

One of Hanover's other losses came in the championship final of the Snacktown Fall Volleyball Classic to Eastern York. The Hawkettes were missing two starters, so Bitler pulled freshman Lexi Spangler from the bench and called up Renee Drawbaugh from the junior varsity team to fill in.

They didn't lose a single game in three pool-play matches before losing the championship, 25-14, 25-23.

"The whole day was an experiment for us," Bitler said on Sept. 24. "I think we have a strong program here. I think, for me to be able to go down to my JV lineup and bring two girls up to fill those spots and getting to where we did today, that gives me a little bit of confidence on what I have for the future."

After the season had finished, it turns out he has plenty of confidence going forward.

"If you would've asked me at the beginning of this season, I would've said next year would definitely be a rebuilding year," he said. "Having to readjust the lineup and utilizing underclassmen and not relying on the seniors heavily, the things I saw from my underclassmen, I think we're going to be able to compete next year."

Bitler is moving from high school season to club volleyball, which leads to summer leagues and open gym sessions. From there, he'll return to high school coaching, deciding which offense and defense the Hawkettes should run next year.

He'll then go back to the court, ready to start coaching again.

dpaulling@eveningsun.com; 717-637-3736, extension 139