FRIENDSWOOD – After a successful all-around year and a looming move up to class 6A, the Friendswood Mustangs will be bringing in three new coaches for three of the school’s strongest traditional programs.

New softball head coach Christa Williams-Yates knows all about golden opportunities, and both the two-time Olympic gold medal winner and her new school feel they have seized on just that.

Williams-Yates remembers during her high school softball playing days at Dobie how daunting a challenge the always-scrappy Friendswood was.

“It brings back great memories for when I used to play high school ball, and you couldn’t beat Friendswood back when I played,” Williams-Yates said about her new position.

Williams-Yates has coached the last eight years at Manvel, where she built the team to be a consistent playoff qualifier. This past year, the Lady Mavs made the playoffs as their district’s third-place team and advanced to the second round before being ousted by district 24-5A champions Brazoswood — a team the Lady Mustangs will compete against in the new District 24-6A.

“It’s a new challenge, and there’s so much to like about Friendswood,” Williams-Yates said. “The area and community is so supportive.”

While boasting an impressive résumé as a standout pitcher on the 1996 and 2000 Olympic teams, as well as for the University of Texas, Williams-Yates said, as a coach, she cannot merely stand on her past accomplishments.

After all, she pointed out, most of the players she will be coaching weren’t even born when she was bringing home the gold for the U.S.

“You still have to prove yourself to be worthy of their respect; it doesn’t matter what you achieved in the past,” Williams-Yates said. “In everybody’s eyes, you have to continue to prove why those kids should trust you.”

In order to keep building on the Friendswood softball program’s tradition of success, Williams-Yates said she will promote the program as a priority for young athletes in the community, and will coach her team with a heavy focus on perfecting fundamentals and on strength and conditioning.

Friendswood ISD Athletic Director Robert Koopmann said Williams-Yates has shown interest in coming to coach at Friendswood in the past and he was able to finally bring her on board to lead the softball program.

“People who know softball know her name. So, they respect her knowledge, and we think this is just a huge step forward for our softball program,” Koopmann said.

New leader for

state semifinalists

Friendswood’s new head volleyball coach Kylie Kerlin is going from building a program from scratch to heading up an already-established state powerhouse.

“I’ve had the opportunity to start working with (players) in April, and one thing I can tell about them right away is they’re just tenacious, they don’t quit,” Kerlin said. “So, there’s not a whole lot about them I’m going to change.”

Kerlin, who has coached at multiple Texas schools, most recently served as the head volleyball coach at Georgetown East View in all three years of the program’s existence from 2011-13. Kerlin guided the new program to playoff appearances the past two seasons.

Kerlin not only follows a head coach in Kelly Beck who has led the Lady Mustangs to two Region III titles in three years, she will also be tasked with guiding the team as it moves up in classification to 6A.

Despite the changes, Kerlin said her sole focus remains the same and simple — do the right things to win.

“We’re going to go in and focus on what wins,” Kerlin said. “That’s going to be defense, obviously. ‘Defense wins championships’ has always been a motto of mine. We’ll focus on great ball control and being aggressive. With those things, you can hang with anybody from 6A on down.”

Koopmann said Kerlin’s demeanor and experience building a program from scratch sets her apart as the successor to Beck, who resigned her post in order to stay at home to raise her newborn child.

Baseball brings in coaching heir apparent

Friendswood’s third major coaching hire of the offseason won’t be taking over a program as head coach — at least not yet.

Ball High head baseball coach Steve Hecker was hired on as an assistant coach on the Mustangs. According to Friendswood ISD athletic director Robert Koopmann, the hire was made with the intention of grooming Hecker to take over the head coach position when current head coach Charlie Taylor opts to retire.

Hecker, the 2013 All-County Coach of the Year, took over the head coaching duties at Ball High in 2011. The very next season, he steered the team to its first playoff appearance in 11 years.

In 2013, Ball High reached the regional quarterfinals, and this postseason, the Tors forced eventual Region III champion Richmond George Ranch to all three games in a tough opening round matchup.

Contact Sports Editor James LaCombe at 409-683-5242 or james.lacombe@galvnews.com.

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