Site updated 08/19/14 09:37 AM Upper Dauphin Sentinel ©2006
For their role in helping the Halifax Area High School softball team accomplish its best season in 12 years – including a berth in the PIAA state playoffs – Head Coach Tracy Cox and her staff are the Sentinel’s Girls’ Sport Coaching Staff of the Year for the 2013-14 competitive season.
Overcoming a regular-season losing streak, the Lady Cats finished with a 9-5 record in the Tri-Valley League, then caught fire in the postseason, winning the District 3, Class A title and reaching the state quarterfinals, the deepest postseason run in softball for Halifax since 2002.
During the season, college-bound Chelsea Konyar reached a milestone of 100 career hits when the ’Cats played Upper Dauphin Area in districts.
“We certainly were on a roll and these girls were just so focused and willing to do whatever it took,’’ Cox said. ‘‘We had a downward slide but the girls realized – and we kept telling them – that a new season starts after the regular season. They bought into the philosophy and were able to overcome all of the emotions I was dealing with after the death of my uncle (Terry Bowman).
‘‘I definitely knew we had the potential to win districts and advance well into states, but our philosophy throughout the season was, ‘One game at a time,’ Cox added.
The coaching staff also received accolades from Jeff Kerstetter, the district’s athletic director.
“Tracy and her staff recognized the team talent and worked hard at keeping them focused and working as a team,’’ the former high school soccer coach said. ‘‘Even when the team struggled through several consecutive losses, the coaches kept directing the girls to believe in themselves and their skills.”
“After finishing second to two other girls’ sports at districts, it was nice to finish the year as a district champion,’’ Kerstetter added.
Encouraged to take the job. Cox joined the Halifax softball staff in 2003, concentrating on the junior varsity. Her first coaching experience had been in the late 1990s with the Halifax Rec League, where her teams were division champs each year she coached.
‘‘I initially got involved when my oldest daughter (Sami) played. I loved that age group,’’ Cox said.
Several people encouraged her to apply for an open slot with the Halifax softball program. The head coach, Traci Aunkst, encouraged Cox to apply as her replacement prior to the 2010 season.
As a Halifax student, the former Tracy Trutt had been a four-year starter in softball and earned Most Valuable Underclassmen honors as a freshman catcher, then was named team MVP as a senior when she was playing shortstop.
“I have been around softball since I could walk,’’ she stated. ‘‘There was a field across the street from where I grew up. I was over there along with a bunch of the neighborhood kids in the summer from the time I got up in the morning until dark.
‘‘I also enjoyed keeping the scorebook for the men’s slow pitch teams that played there most evenings in the summer,’’ she added.
Recruited by former UDA coach Gordon Foster, Cox continued her softball career at Lebanon Valley College. While she had no intention of playing any other sport, she said she was pressured to play womens’ basketball and sought out for a sport she never played in high school – field hockey.
‘‘I played junior varsity in my sophomore year and then was varsity goalie in my junior and senior seasons, where I earned a ranking of eighth in the nation,’’ she said.
“I believe that all of my athletic experiences have significantly contributed to my coaching abilities,’’ Cox noted. ‘‘I especially learned teamwork and what good teammates are during my field hockey experiences.
‘‘I have had the honor of having many great coaches through my high school and college years and gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from them and coaches that my daughters (Sami, Myranda and Morgan) have had through their high school and college years,’’ she added.
A ‘‘team’’ of coaches. For the 2014 season, Cox was assisted by Chuck Buffington (pitching), Desiree Lenker (assistant) and volunteers Katie Snow, Myranda Cox, Jim Malpezzi and Brenda Lawrence.
‘‘We were a true ‘team,’ even in the coaching aspect,’’ the ’Cat boss said. ‘‘We made all decisions as a team and held each other accountable.
“The biggest reward I and the staff have gotten from coaching is watching the players grow into amazing young women and to see their excitement and successes as they grow,’’ she added.
Cox is quick to credit the team’s 2014 success to the role her staff played.
“Chuck has been with me since the beginning. He played on the field across the street from where I grew up and he has an amazing knowledge of the game,’’ she remarked. ‘‘He loves and cares tremendously about each player.
‘‘Desiree has been my assistant for two years and has a great relationship with the players and brings great softball knowledge to our staff. Her dedication to our team is such a refreshing attribute.
‘‘Katie never misses anything and is always willing to help in any capacity,’’ she said. ‘‘Myranda mostly helped with pitchers and catchers. Jim loves helping individuals with fundamentals of the game. Brenda had her second son this past year, so her capacity was limited. She provided inspiration before each game in person or via e-mail.
The rewards of a successful season were gratifying for both Cox and her coaching ‘‘team.’’
“Winning the district championship was an incredible feeling and entitled me to my first fire truck ride, so I was excited to share that experience with my youngest daughter, Morgan,’’ she said. ‘‘Chelsea’s (Konyar) journey to her 100th hit is another fond memory that I will always treasure. Our team talking about ‘winning the jackets’ all year; and again being the only family member without one, it thrilled me to be able to accomplish that goal.
“My water bath after the District championship as well as my Gatorade bath after our first state win will always be special moments. Also having the honor of playing against some great teams with players and watching their successes are always a bonus. Earning the privilege of watching our girls play in a college stadium was a tremendous honor and thrill.”
Just as Cox worked hard as a high school and college player, she also utilizes the same philosophy in her coaching.
“I think coaching philosophies need to be adjusted to each team, but I believe in hard work, dedication, commitment, respect for the game and good sportsmanship, and that’s what I expect from everyone involved in our program,’’ she said.
Players say staff showed dedication. The Lady ’Cats of 2014 had nothing but praise for their leader and her ‘‘teammates.’’
“Coach Cox had a unique way of coaching that gave every player individualized help. All the team bondings that we had at coach's house really brought us together,’’ Paige Miller said. “Not only the head coach, but all the assistant coaches always worked hard to help us whenever we needed the individual help, whether it was coming into the batting cages before practice or staying after to hit us some balls in the field,’’ she added. ‘‘In the end, with all the hard work the coaches and players put into the team we came out with the district championship.”’
“I think her having her daughter on the team helped her to be a better coach because it made her close to players from them being friends with Morgan,’’ Kassidy Sorichetti stated. ‘‘We also did many team bonding activities outside of practice hours, which brought our team and coaches closer together which helped us work better together on the field and helped us make it as far as we did.”
“Our coaches are more than coaches. It is like having more parents during softball season,’’ Davia Erdman noted. ‘‘They not only help us in softball but as individuals. Tracy especially always would tell us it’s who we are off the field that matters the most.”
“What makes our coaches standout is not only their dedication to the sport, the girls, and our team, but also their willingness to learn,’’ Morgan Cox commented. “Whether it be a lesson learned in softball, or a life lesson, they were always willing to learn. They never shut down someone trying to give them a different point of view and they never gave up when we lost, because every loss was a chance to learn something – What we could have done different, what we needed to work on, etc. They learned from each other and from the players each and every day with no problem.
‘‘We learned so much from them,’’ Morgan Cox added. ‘‘They were always willing to come in early and work with you on whatever you wanted or stayed late to help you. Some mornings before big games, girls wanted to come in at 6 a.m. to hit off of the pitching machine, and you better believe that our coaches were there and ready to pitch to us.
‘‘Our coaching staff this year was just outstanding and we were so lucky. They have made a huge impact on my life not only as a student athlete, but also as a person,’’ Cox said.
“Assistant Coach Lenker sees what a player is doing wrong and will work with them as much as she can to correct it. Assistant Coach Chuck taught us to be accountable for the errors we make not only in games but in life,’’ said Anna Seiders.
“Our coaches are always willing to help us in any way possible to improve our individual skills, as well as our team talent. Whether it is fielding, batting, or sportsmanship, our coaches encourage us to reach our potential and be the best ball players we can,’’ Brooke Grill stated. “No matter how our season is going, our coaches always motivate us to look on the bright side of things, look for upcoming opportunities, and always have the utmost respect.
‘‘Our volunteer coaches, including Katie Snow, attended all of our practices and games, which shows true dedication to the players and the game of softball,’’ Grill said. ‘‘Without them, softball wouldn't have been the same.”