It is extremely difficult to follow in the footsteps of a legend. But Mary Manlove did it with style and grace and commitment.
And along the way, she left her mark on the Palmyra girls’ basketball program.
Manlove recently resigned her position as the Cougars’ head coach. She coached Palmyra for four seasons, after taking over the reigns from legendary head coach Ron Berman.
“I’ll be forever grateful for Brian (Weidler, Palmyra’s athletic director) giving me the opportunity to lead the Lady Cougar program,” said Manlove, in an email to Lebanon Sports Buzz. “I have four incredible seasons of memories and relationships to cherish. “
“Mary maintained the standard of excellence in our girls’ basketball program,” said Weidler, in an email to Lebanon Sports Buzz. “Whomever followed in the footsteps of Ron Berman had tremendous expectations to produce. Our magical run to district gold in 2019 under Mary’s leadership will never be forgotten. The district is grateful for her service and impact while serving in this role.”
Certainly the highlight of Manlove’s tenure with Palmyra was leading the Cougars to that surprising District Three Class AAAAA championship in 2018-19. On the way to their 31-23 victory over Gettysburg in the final at Reading’s Santander Center, the eighth-seeded Cougars defeated the tournament’s fifth-, fourth-, first- and second-seeded teams.
Hovering around the .500 mark near the midway point of that campaign, the Amelia Baldo-Olivia Richardson-led Cougars ripped off ten straight wins – six of which came in the postseason. Palmyra’s journey ended in the Elite Eight round of the PIAA postseason.
“I’m just hoping to continue the winning ways Coach (Ron) Berman would be proud of,” Manlove told Lebanon Sports Buzz, following the district-championship-clinching triumph over Gettysburgh. “There’s lady Cougar principles still here. The kids who were here before set certain standards, and we hope to live up to them. The gym’s filled with banners. The girls know they’re part of something special. We didn’t let things drop on our watch.
“It is hard to coach sports,” continued Manlove. “But anyone who coaches at Palmyra is lucky. I see members of our administration at every game. I get emails from them. They are the most approachable and supportive group of administrators I’ve ever been associated with. They breed success. They provide great leadership.”
But this past season, the Cougars struggled on the court, going a disappointing 7-15 overall and missing out on the District Three playoffs – despite an athletic core group of players. During these last four years, Manlove has been employed as a reading specialist at Pine Street Elementary in the Palmyra school district.
“No, I’m not disappointed with the season,” Manlove told Lebanon Sports Buzz in January of this year. “Every night is a learning experience and we want to take advantage of them. Other people may be disappointed, but that’s their problem.”
Manlove, a native of York, took over for Berman at the beginning of the 2016-17 season, after leaving Dallastown under somewhat controversial circumstances. In her seven seasons there, Dallastown compiled an overall record of 114-77.
At Dallastown, Manlove was a third- and fourth-grade elementary school teacher.
Before going to Dallastown, Manlove was an assistant women’s basketball coach at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Under Berman, the Cougars were one of the most successful girls’ basketball programs in Lebanon County. Berman-led girls’ teams at Palmyra went a combined 335-116, and enjoyed 15 straight winning seasons, reached the District Three postseason 14 times and advanced to states 11 times.