After only a few short weeks of searching, the Medomak Valley High School softball team has found its new coach.

And they didn’t have to look far.

Richard Vannah, who has been the assistant coach for the Panthers for the past three seasons, was hired two weeks ago after being approved by the school board to become the new head coach for the two-time defending Eastern Class B champions.

Vannah replaces Glenn Barbour, who coached the team five seasons and led the squad to a pair of unlikely, at least seed-wise, regional titles.

“Glenn brought a lot of enthusiasm to the game and his work ethic will be hard to keep up with,” said Vannah. “I think I’ll be able to make the transition pretty good.”

The Panthers were the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Class B playoffs the past two seasons, twice upsetting the No. 1 seed while running the gauntlet all the way to the Class B state title game.

And Vannah feels that despite losing a few key seniors, including his daughter and last year’s star hurler Kayla to graduation, that the Panthers have the tools to get back to the state championship game for the third straight season.

“I’m pretty excited to do it,” said Vannah. “I’m hoping we can pick up where we left off and defend our [regional] title. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Vannah has coached at many different levels from men’s league softball in the area to Little League and has also coached freshmen and jayvee softball and basketball for Medomak Valley. He also coached in the American Softball Association of America (ASA).

However, this will be Vannah’s first varsity coaching job. And being asked to lead a team that has advanced to two straight state title games, regardless of being on the coaching staff last season, can be overwhelming.

“The expectations are high in town and we hope to meet them,” Vannah said. “Everyone expects to win now, and that’s a good thing.”

The transition should be seamless for the Panthers. Not only was Vannah a vocal coach for Medomak Valley as an assistant, but both he and Barbour love to play small ball and is not against making changes for the betterment of the team.

“We’ll hit from the left side, we’ll hit from the right side,” he said. “Whatever we have to do to drive the run in is what it amounts to.”

That, and neither the Panthers nor Vannah have to spend time analyzing what he has in his players, or what they have in a coach.

“I think most of the girls all know me pretty well, even the underclassmen,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty strong freshmen class coming in and we lost four or five seniors last year and we’ll probably lose three or four this year. But I’ve bled blue and gold for 20 years now and I think I’ll have it covered.”

Vannah said he wants to keep the program a “class act” as it has been in the past few years, and to continue to work with the feeder program to continue to bring up players who are groomed for the varsity game from middle school.

And with a strong group of younger players ready to step up and fill the void left by a few key seniors, Vannah hopes that those players can step up to the plate and deliver for him this season.

“We’re a young team, and I mean that a little more mentally than I do physically,” he said. “I think any team with a good pitcher, and [senior] Kayla [Santheson] is a very good pitcher, has a chance. It just depends on how the stars line up. If I can get them to play for me, anything’s possible.”

Vannah is a 1982 graduate of Medomak Valley High School and resides in Waldoboro with his wife Linda. They have several children. Linda and the children also attended MVHS.

Village NetMedia Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at mhaskell@villagesoup.com.