Valdosta High School has its new softball coach, again.
On Monday night, the school system approved the hire of Samantha Luke to lead the school’s softball program. Luke comes to Valdosta from Berrien Middle School, where she taught physical education.
Luke is a native of Berrien County and graduated from Valdosta State University in 2007 with a degree in Physical Education. Prior to enrolling at VSU, Luke attended Darton College where she was a middle infielder on the softball team.
“My dream and passion is softball,” said Luke on Tuesday. “I always dreamed about being a head softball coach.”
Valdosta’s hire of Luke marked the school’s second softball coaching hire in three months.
In March, school administration introduced former Valdosta State All-American Kristina Ely as the school’s new softball head coach. But in late May, Ely informed school officials she was unable to accept the position due to personal reasons.
Ely’s backing out of the job sent Athletic Director Rance Gillespie and other school officials into a search for a new coach, thus leading to the hire of Luke.
Now as Luke takes over the Valdosta program she is faced with the daunting task of turning around a struggling program for the past three seasons; a program that has compiled just a 12-55-1 record since the start of the 2009 season, including a 5-22 record in 2011.
“You have to bring fun back into the program,” said Luke. “They have to know their coach is passionate about softball and I’m not going to give up on them or the program.”
Valdosta’s struggles the past three seasons were magnified in games against crosstown rival Lowndes. The two-time reigning Region 1-AAAAA champions are 7-0 against the Wildcats the past three seasons, winning by a margin of 9.85 runs per contest.
But, with both programs starting over with new coaching staffs — Lowndes hired former VSU baseball player Stewart Thomas in May — Valdosta’s losing ways against the Vikettes could soon be coming to an end.
For Luke, the transformation of taking Valdosta from worst to first in the newly aligned Region 1-AAAAAA will start with winning the trust of her players.
“I met with the girls for the first time this week and they know, from this point forward, that I am here for them,” said Luke. “It will take some time, to figure out how things work, but they will figure it out and they will know that I am here for them.”
The Luke era didn’t take long to begin. The Wildcats officially began summer practice on Tuesday. The team will work out throughout the summer months, competing in summer ball games later in June. The team will also take part in various camps hosted by the national champion Valdosta State softball program, said Luke.
“We already have some things set up. When Thomas (Macera) was here at Thomas University, I took hitting and fielding lessons from him,” said Luke. “We already have camps set up for late July.”
The Wildcats begin their season Aug. 9 when they host Brooks County.
Also on Monday night, Valdosta City Schools approved the hire of Brandon Joiner as Valdosta High School’s new swimming coach. Joiner will also teach science.
Valdosta Athletic Director Rance Gillespie was unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Valdosta High School has its new softball coach, again.
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Valdosta State softball’s bid for a national title repeat came up short this season.
The Blazers were eliminated from the NCAA Division II National Championship Tournament Saturday with a 7-5 loss in nine innings to Armstrong Atlantic University, a school based off the Georgia coast in Savannah.
Win or go home
The Valdosta State softball team faces Armstrong Atlantic University in an elimination game for the 2013 Division II Softball Championship Tournament today at noon.
HOOPER: An early look at the 2013 football season
I haven’t written a column in quite some time, largely because there has been so much going on and we haven’t always had the space, nor have I felt up to it after writing so many other stories.
But today, I am writing this column and taking up the inches in the daily sports section and giving a little love to the upcoming football season.
Blazers fall to Molloy in eight innings
With only one out remaining and trailing by three, the Molloy Lions strung together four hits to plate three runs in the seventh followed by another run in the eighth inning to defeat Valdosta State’s softball team 5-4 in the first round of the 2013 Division II Softball National Championship Tournament on Thursday in Salem, Va.
Albritton, Johnson earn All-America honors
Valdosta State softball players Courtney Albritton and Morgan Johnson gathered multiple All-America honors late Wednesday night.
Golfers take course for Wounded Warriors
Local patrons participated in the Wounded Warrior Project Golf Tournament at Stone Creek Golf Club in Valdosta on Thursday.
Valwood football hosting 4-man scramble golf tourney
Head coach Ashley Henderson and the Valwood football team will be hosting a 4-man scramble golf tournament at Valdosta Country Club Friday, June 14.
VHS football cheerleaders to host Junior Cheer Camp
The Valdosta High School football cheerleaders will be hosting a Junior Cheer Camp June 5 through June 7 at the W.G. Nunn Elementary School gymnasium.
Gillespie, McPherson pleased with spring practices
Valdosta’s Rance Gillespie and Lowndes’ Randy McPherson both think their football teams got better during the recent 10 days of spring practice.
Then again, both coaches know their teams have a ways to go before the start of the football season.
Signing day at VHS
It was signing day galore at Valdosta High School Wednesday.
Six student-athletes signed national letter of intents to compete at the next level, while two VHS athletes both signed academic scholarships to Division I universities.
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