East Clarendon softball Coach Lisa Ard knew that her Lady Wolverines had a good chance of winning the program's second state title when they took to the field for their first games this spring.
But she couldn't just rely on the potential she saw in the team, which had some players who helped the Lady Wolverines win the Class A State Championship in 2013.
The team had eight returning starters, "but we still had to play solid defense," Ard said after the team's second state win on May 17, four years to the day after the first.
"You still have to practice and work hard," she said. "You can't get around that."
Her team put in the work, and Ard was recognized Wednesday as the High School Sports Report High School Sports League Class A Softball Coach of the Year.
"It's a blessing to be able to coach this 2017 State Championship team," said Ard. "Their hard work and dedication paid off. I am proud to be their coach, and they are the reason I received coach of the year."
Ard led the Lady Wolverines to the Lower State finals four times in the past four years as well. During her eight years as head coach, the team has won four Lower State titles, the two State titles and has been runners-up twice in the State Championship finals.
She joined East Clarendon High School 11 years ago, serving as assistant coach under Judy Coker.