Ascension Catholic will have a new head coach in 2017, but he's no stranger to leading the Lady Bulldogs to championships.
Ascension Catholic will have a new head coach in 2017, but he’s no stranger to leading the Lady Bulldogs to championships.
After a hiatus from coaching, Don Henry returned over the summer to begin his second stint as Ascension Catholic head coach.
Henry coached the Lady Bulldogs for 14 years. In that time, he led them to 11 state tournament appearances and 11 district titles.
Under his leadership, Ascension Catholic won three state titles (1995, 1999 and 2000), and they finished as state runner-up in 2004.
He now returns to lead the program after his former player Brandi Manry resigned during the offseason.
Manry had led Ascension Catholic for three seasons. They made it to the Fast Pitch 56 in all three years of her tenure.
In 2014, they finished as state runners-up, and last season, they reached the state semifinals, before losing to eventual state champion Catholic of Pointe Coupee.
When Henry was first hired, he said, “It’s a great fit. I still have a lot of friends in the area. There are a lot of great people and great kids at the school. It was also a great honor for me to follow Brandi Manry—who was one of my former players. She did so many great things for the program in the three years that she was the coach. I’ll definitely have some big shoes to fill, but I’m excited to try to continue the great tradition that the program has built over the last few years.”
Henry’s biggest challenge in his quest for a fourth state title will be replacing pitcher Julia Beck and outfielder Rae’Shaun Melancon. Both players were instrumental in the team’s run to four straight state tournament appearances.
Beck established herself as one of the best pitchers in the state.
Last season, Beck was named the LSWA Class 1A Outstanding Player. She was also named the parish’s Pitcher of the Year, and she was first-team all-district.
Melancon was the Lady Bulldogs’ most dangerous hitter as she hit .534 with 10 home runs en route to being named District 6-1A MVP and first-team All-State.
She is an LSU-Eunice signee.
Behind Beck and Melancon, Ascension Catholic went 18-9 and won another district title.
Though losing both players are huge losses, the fortunate thing for Ascension Catholic is that everyone else will be back in 2017.
The Lady Bulldogs had six other players make the all-district squad last year.
Ascension Catholic returns first-baseman Abigail Landry, short stop Alicia Canatella and outfielder Carson Dunn. Landry was first-team all-district in 2016.
Utility player Meredith Medine made first-team all-district last season. She will return with fellow all-district outfielder Bailey Acosta.
Lauren Landry was another all-district player that will be returning.
The wealth of talent on the roster is one of the things that excited Henry when he took the job.
“Brandi and her coaching staff have done a terrific job, and they definitely didn’t leave the cupboard bare. They have some great players returning, and they’re all well coached,” Henry said. “I’m walking into a great situation with a great group of kids, and from what Brandi has told me, they’re dedicated. They’ll go through walls for you, so I’m confident we’ll do some great things.”