The Post-Journal

Commuter Coach

The Allegheny College women’s basketball season is underway and that means Coach Kay Gould is on the road again – almost constantly. This is her fifth season coaching the women’s basketball and softball teams at the Meadville, Pa. college and she continues to live at her home near Watts Flats.

“It’s fifty-six miles one way,” Gould says of the trip to Allegheny that she makes it about six days a week. “It takes an hour and ten minutes on bare roads.”

When asked if she had considered doing an automobile commercial, Gould laughed and said, “I’m getting a new one this week. I have way over 100,000 on the one I have.”

“In the normal school year, I’m back and forth six nights a week,” Gould said. “I might stay one night.”

Right now things are different because Allegheny is on break until January because of its trimester schedule. Because the campus is closed down, Gould’s basketball team is staying at the Holiday Inn.

“It’s cheaper for us to stay in the Holiday Inn than to heat a full dorm,” she explained. And she likes the setup. “On this kind of (trimester) schedule it definitely helps. Especially for our first games. Also, staying at the Holiday Inn helps with team unity.”

The Lady Gators have five rooms with three players per room and they eat at a house rented off campus where their trainer does the cooking.

With school out and the players at the Holiday Inn, Gould is responsible for the team all the time. That means even less time at home.

Even when school is in session and there are no games, scouting trips at night cut down on her time at home. But on the nights when there is only practice she gets home at a “decent” hour. “I generally get home around 7:30 or 8 or 10,” she said, depending on when her team’s practice begins. And when does she leave for Meadville in the morning? “After the kids get on the bus which is about a quarter after eight. Sometimes that’s the only time I get to see them.”

The kids are 14-year-old Jeannine who is a freshman and 12-year-old Jess who is in the seventh grade at Panama Central School. They hold down the fort alone with Kay’s husband, Jay, when she is taking care of her coaching duties.

“My family is really supportive,” Gould said. “It would be impossible without their support.”

The softball season is easier to handle because the games are played in the afternoon. Also, the weather is better to make Gould’s almost non-stop commuting less taxing. But there is some added driving during softball season because she must drive the team’s van. The women’s basketball team travels by bus.

“We go all year with softball,” Gould said. The Lady Gators play scrimmages during the fall. Then all softballers not on the basketball team workout beginning in January and tryouts begin in February. “I must make final softball cuts before the basketball season is over,” Gould noted. However, a majority of the softball players are on the basketball team.

Basketball ends in March, softball ends in May and then suddenly Gould’s world stops spinning at a hectic pace. “When it’s over it’s amazing,” she said. That is the time for recruiting, but now one of Gould’s former Southwestern Central School players, Assistant Coach Sheilah Lingenfelter handles a lot of that.

There is still scheduling and other paperwork to do, but Gould admits “You don’t know what to do with yourself for a while.”

This summer she found out what to do by showing quarterhorses with her daughter. And that meant more time on the road.

How long does Gould plan to keep up her commuter coaching? “When it becomes work. I probably won’t do it,” she answered. “Right now I enjoy it.”

The Allegheny administration hopes it doesn’t end soon because there has been nothing but success since Gould arrived for the 1980-81 school year. Both the softball and women’s basketball teams had finished last in the Keystone Conference the previous year. They haven’t been last since.

In four years of coaching the softball team, Gould’s record is 70-27. Last year the team was 21-3 and two of the losses came at the NCAA Division III national tournament. In basketball, her four-year record is 54-28. Her cagers also made it to the nationals last season and finished with a 22-4 record.

With a combined record of 41-3 record in softball and basketball last season, Gould’s teams had two all-Americans, five all-region selections and 13 players on the all-conference first or second teams. But the trips to the NCAA Division III playoffs is what makes Gould proud.

“I doubt there are many who coached two sports and have been to the nationals in the same year,” she said.

This season Allegheny joined the new North Coast Athletic Conference which means more travel because Allegheny is the only Pennsylvania school. The other five (Case Western Reserve, Oberlin, Wooster, Kenyon, Denision, Ohio Wesleyan) are in Ohio. The closest to Meadville is Case Western Reserve which is located near Cleveland.

“I’m afraid the travel may become another opponent for us,” Gould pointed out as a disadvantage of being in the NCAC. Another is “We don’t play many local schools which helps with national rankings.”

But there is a big plus to the NCAC. Gould says it is made up of “Good Division Three schools with academics.” That word academics should be emphasized because the NCAC is considered only second to the Ivy League among academic conferences in the nation.

“They are really making an effort to make this a class league,” Gould said of the NCAC which has headquarters in Cleveland. The conference is off to a good start because it has put together some classy looking sports media guides.

The conference is new, but Allegheny is expected to do old things in women’s basketball – win. When the coaches and the media members made their preseason predictions, Gould’s team received all 20 votes to finish first. Allegheny doesn’t play its first NCAC game until Jan. 12, but so far the Lady Gators are making the “experts” look good.

Last night Allegheny, which trailed by 18 points at halftime, came back and defeated Glenville State (W. Va.) at a tournament at Pitt-Johnstown 85-78 in overtime to remain undefeated at 4-0. The other wins were 79-76 in overtime over Indiana (Pa.), the defending Pennsylvania NCAA Division 2 champions; 75-47 over Fredonia State and 76-60 over Washington & Jefferson. Tonight the Lady Gators will find out just how good they are when they take on Pitt-Johnstown which has been ranked in the Division III top five for the past three years.

Allegheny picked up some of their wins minus three starters. One was last season’s Most Valuable Player who is still recovering from a summer-long illness. The leading scorer in the school’s history was sidelined with a sprained ankle and a starting guard was out with the same injury.

A key starter who has been in all the games is Cassadaga Valley Central graduate Jill Swanson who has been the backbone of Allegheny’s success in both softball and women’s basketball. “She’s been there for the entire building process in both sports,” Gould said. “She just does a tremendous job”

Swanson is a shortstop in softball and Gould says she has a tremendous arm. She bats in the No. 3 spot, is an excellent bunter and also hits the ball real well.

Swanson has been especially impressive in basketball as the Lady Gators’ point guard. She holds the Allegheny record for assists in a game, a season and a career. “Everything she does this year will just be added on,” Gould said.

Swanson is the backbone of Gould’s fast-break offense and pressure man-to-man defense. At Fredonia State Monday night the Lady Gators looked like a carbon copy of Nick Creola’s powerful Jamestown Community College teams that won with the same ingredients. On defense, Swanson was all over Fredonia State’s point guard and on offense the 5-6 senior brought the ball up court like she was competing in the 100-yard dash. Swanson must have misunderstood when they explained she has 30 seconds to get the ball up court in women’s basketball. She must have thought they said three seconds because she always makes it in half that time.

When Swanson graduates in June, Gould will have a void to fill at point guard. But it appears she already has the spot filled with a talented freshman.

Of course that freshman was scouted and recruited in the many travels of Gould. The commuter coach wasn’t asked, but her favorite song is probably “On the Road Again.”

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