For the past month or so, two varsity sports teams at Elizabethtown Area High School had head coaching vacancies. Now, just a few weeks away from the start of the winter sports season, those positions have finally been filled.
The Elizabethtown Area School District has hired Cassidy Bender as the new head coach for the boys lacrosse team and promoted Chad Houck to head coach of the swimming team from his previous role as assistant coach, per the personnel report for the school board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 23. All 22 varsity sports teams at the high school now have a head coach.
Bender comes to Elizabethtown by way of Central Dauphin, where he served as both a varsity assistant and the junior varsity coach for the past 10 years. He graduated from the school in 2007, playing on both the lacrosse and football teams during his four years there. He takes over for Allen Shissler, who resigned as head coach back in July after four seasons and a 27-36 record with the Bears, 3-13 in 2018.
During Bender’s time with the program, the Rams made the District 3 playoffs three times and own a 58-54 record since 2012. He is also the head coach of the freshman select team for the Grizz Lacrosse Club, which is based in central Pennsylvania. Bender will join Lamar Fahnestock as one of the two new coaches for the spring sports season; Fahnestock was hired in August to replace Bryan Buckius as the head coach for boys volleyball after the latter left to join the coaching staff for both volleyball teams at Elizabethtown College.
Houck will be the lone new hire for the winter sports season. He served as an assistant under Zach McElheny since 2015. McElheny stepped down as head coach of the swimming team in September after five seasons. The Elizabethtown girls team finished 5-5-1 in the 2017-18 season, while the boys were 3-8, combining to send five swimmers, two divers and a relay team to districts, two of whom (Oliviah Rachael and Kierstan Lentz) went to states.
A member of the class of 2008 at Donegal, Houck finished 8th in the boys 50-meter freestyle at the PIAA Championships in his senior season. During college, he was a member of the men’s swimming team at Duquesne, competing as both an individual and as a part of relay teams.
Bender and Houck will each face the tough task of transitioning their respective teams after losing valuable athletes to graduation at the end of last season. Boys lacrosse saw 14 seniors graduate, including L-L League All-Star Isaiah Shickley, while the swim team lost team captains Rachael and Daniel Mueser, both of whom will be competing for Ursinus College.