Cheri Smith just missed out on the one and only time Mountain Pointe made the state softball championship game.
She does not plan on letting that happen again.
The 1997 Mountain Pointe graduate takes over the program, pending board approval, and plans on restoring past success.
“We won state two years after I left, so I knew a lot of those girls and played with some of them, and I wish I had that chance,” Smith said. “We went to state every year when I played but always lost in the first or second round. (The 1999 state title) shows me what can be done at Mountain Pointe and there is no reason to think we can’t get back there.”
And if it happens, Smith, 34, plans to be part of the mix.
She takes over the program after Jim Bradford decided to resign after his two years that included a first-round playoff loss as the No. 12 seed this past season.
“We were impressed with Cheri’s passion for the game, her head coaching experience as well as the fact that she competed at the collegiate level,” Pride athletic director Brian Winter said. “We expect that she will serve as a positive role model for our student athletes.”
Smith scrimmaged against the Pride when she was coaching at Williams Field a few years back, when the incoming seniors were freshmen and sophomores.
“I know some of the girls, but mostly only know them from what I heard through the grapevine,” Smith said. “I know we have some really good established players that proved that can be stars. It’s a good foundation.”
The Pride have two leaders in catcher Hannah Hoban and pitcher Kristen McCann, who will enter their senior years with three years of varsity experience that has put them among the state’s top players. There are some other talented players like Ana Howard and Corina Goings to put the Pride in a good position to be playoff contenders again in 2015.
It is a much different situation than when Smith took over a brand-new program in Williams Field when the school opened in 2007.
“It was a great opportunity to really put your imprint on a program and develop an approach that the whole program follows,” said Smith, who coached the Black Hawks through the 2013 season with a 59-56-1 record. “It was awesome to help the girls find out the values of competition and make a commitment and sacrifice for the team.
“It’s the same approach I will bring to Mountain Pointe.”
Smith has also coached for the Arizona Hotshots through the years after her collegiate career at Mississippi State ended in 2001, after four years as a starting first baseman. As a senior with the Bulldogs, she had the fourth-highest batting average (.313) while posting the clubs highest walk total (33).
She ended her career at MSU ranking in the top five of six offensive categories and left the Bulldogs with school records in fielding chances and putouts, while ranking second in career fielding percentage (.957).
Smith is confident her coaching style will mesh well with the talent and work ethic already in place at Mountain Pointe.
“We are going to do the little things correctly and be fundamentally strong,” she said. “I will tweak some things and turn things around. We will be prim and proper and we will absolutely challenge for a state championship.
“It’s the mentality you have to have to be successful.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.