Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center staff lowered the backboards Oct. 15 and hosted the Lady Cats’ first practice of the season. The Lady Cats returned to the gym this year with a new leader for their pride.
The Lady Cats’ welcome new coach Mike Drahos for the 2013-2014 season.
The new head coach was announced July 15 on the Pitt-Johnstown Athletics’ web page.
Drahos has an extensive basketball background both as an undergraduate player and coach.
He was named to six All-Region teams and was a two-time NCAA Division II Honorable Mention All-American during his career at Bethany (W. Va.) University.
As a player, Drahos assisted the Bethany Bisons to a 76-33 (.697) overall record in his four seasons with 1,681 points and 877 rebounds, ranking him among the top-five scorers and rebounders in school history.
He was the former assistant coach at West Liberty University (W. Va.), where his duties included on-court instruction, academic counseling and recruiting coordinator.
There he helped the Hilltoppers to a 107-47 overall record and two NCAA national tournament berths.
Drahos also played an integral role in recruiting eight all-conference honorees, two conference Play of the Year award winners, and a conference freshman of the Year.
He said he chose to coach at Pitt-Johnstown because he and his wife felt comfortable here.
“We really liked the campus and the Johnstown area, and thought it would be a great place to raise a family,” he said. “Coach Galt put this program in the national spotlight, and Coach Palmer did a great job as well, they proved you can get it done here.”
“I am just trying to get the program back to that level of excellence.”
Senior forward Rachel Johnson said team members have accepted Drahos.
“I think there was instant chemistry between us and Coach Drahos when he got here,” senior forward Rachel Johnson.
Drahos said he expects their greatest challenge to be mastering a system heading into the new season.
“I have 13 players who have never played for me, or know my system at all,” he said. “We are also playing against 17 new schools that we don’t know as well as the teams in our former conference.”
“So there is definitely a learning curve that we have to overcome.”
Drahos said that he is taking the season one step at a time.
“The strategy for the Lady Cats this year to overcome these challenges is to take everything one step at a time,” Drahos said.
“Taking it slow and overcoming the obstacle directly in front of us.”
Although the Lady Cats are unfamiliar with their new coach, there seems to be a positive environment among team members.
“Coach has a very different coaching style then we were used to, and it really clicked with the whole team,” Johnson said.
“There is a positive atmosphere, and there is more constructive criticism and teaching occurring.”
“Coach Drahos really knows what he is talking about. He comes from an amazing college program and did well when he played, too. Overall, he is a really nice guy and will do well here at UPJ.”
Drahos said he feels that his players have the drive that some teams might not be ready for this season.
“We have a number of kids that push themselves every single night, and I think that is a rare thing in college basketball these days,” he said.
Senior guard Grace Hyland agreed.
“As long as we play our game and work harder than our opponent, we’ll be fine,” she said. “With hard work and heart come victories.”
The Lady Cats were ranked eighth in the western division of the Pennsylvania Sports Athletic Conference coaches poll.
Hyland was injured last year and will be returning to the floor this season.
“We have the mentality that we are competing to win a championship,” Drahos said.
“We’ve been working hard so far and we are all eager to get the season started. We are not going out there just to compete, we are trying to win a championship.”
Drahos is to be able to begin evaluating the success very shortly, with an away game Nov. 12, against the Davis and Elkins College (W. Va.).
The Lady Cats are to host their first home game Nov. 14 at the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center.