Football, girls soccer and girls basketball get new head coaches for 2013-14

by: SANDY POST: PARKER LEE - Justin Luebbert watches his team work out from the sideline during a recent girls soccer practice. When the Sandy Pioneers trot out onto the football field for the season opener on Friday night, they will be led by a new addition to the program. Joe Polamalu will don the headset and clipboard for the first time as Sandy head coach as the team hosts Hood River Valley.

Polamalu, who had a successful run at Douglas High, isn’t the only coach making his debut at Sandy this year. Sandy also has a new girls’ soccer coach, Justin Luebbert, and a new girls’ basketball coach, Ryan Alexander.

While Polamalu has had to get to know his players at an accelerated rate, Luebbert is familiar with his program and already knows his team well.

Luebbert got his feet wet at Sandy by helping out with the boys’ soccer team, coached by his brother, Garet. He got involved with the girls’ program two years ago when his daughter, Meghan, was a junior on the team. When the head coaching position opened up after last season, Luebbert felt it was a good fit and jumped at the opportunity.

Because Luebbert and his players knew each other coming into the year, the learning curve for everyone has been minimal and the transition has been quite smooth.

“Knowing the girls definitely gives me an advantage,” Luebbert said. “With that said, I will have a little bit different approach than last year’s coach, so it will give the girls a different look.”

In his first year, Luebbert’s biggest focus is upon improvement.

“My goal for the team this year is to have a better season than they did last year,” Luebbert said. “If they can improve on last year’s record, and have an enjoyable season, then I will feel like I had a good first season as a coach.

“On top of that, it’s important to build the program. If I make it enjoyable and we have a good season, hopefully word gets out and we have more girls come out the next year.”

Luebbert and the Pioneers will try to take the first step in that direction as they open the season on Saturday at Summit.

• When the basketball season revs up in a few months, the girls’ team will be directed by Alexander. For him, this season marks a return to Sandy. Alexander was the head coach of the Pioneers for seven seasons, from 1999-2006. He had a few solid years in that stretch and he was the last coach to lead the lady Pioneers to the playoffs.

After his first stint at Sandy, Alexander coached the Barlow High girls for five years. He then took a two-year break from high school coaching, but is excited to be back on the sidelines, especially at Sandy.

“Facing the challenge of a new season is always exciting,” Alexander said. “I’m looking forward to developing the talent we have here, because we really have a great group of kids.”

The Sandy girls have struggled in recent years, but Alexander feels they are in a position to move past that.

“I think the juniors and seniors are sick of losing,” Alexander said. “They are tired of it, so they are willing to work hard and buy in with what we are trying to do.”

The Pioneers have a good mix of returners and young talent and are ready to become a winner again. Alexander and the Pioneers will take to the court in December.

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