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Onalaska girls under new leadership

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070322 new girs bb coachNew girls basketball coach Doug Boone keeps score as the girls close Monday’s practice session with a game.

By Brian Besch
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Doug Boone has been at Onalaska only two weeks, but the girls offseason basketball program has been in full swing since his arrival. In from Slaton, a short drive southeast of Lubbock, Boone is in his 30th year of education. Many of those seasons were spent in East Texas and Central Texas.

“My son graduated from high school last year, so my wife and I kind of had that freedom,” Boone said of his latest move. “My oldest daughter has two daughters and we didn’t expect her to have another one until three or four years down the road, but we were wrong. We got a FaceTime surprise and she is having our third granddaughter.”

Boone and his wife are both familiar with East Texas, both from the Lufkin area. The grandchildren will also call that portion of the state home.

The coaching journey started three decades ago in Cleveland, then traveling to Mart, Colorado City, Lindale, Rosebud-Lott, seven years at private and Christian schools, Center and Slaton.

While location plays into his choice of Onalaska, athletic director Nick Tyerman’s program was also a draw.

“He was wanting someone that would build the program — not just basketball, but the overall girls program, which I love to do that,” Boone said. “Girls coordinator is not just a title to me, it is something I am passionate about — to help every sport be successful. The school has had some tradition and some success in the girls’ programs. It is high academic here, and that is another thing that is important to me. Having smart players, you get a chance to do a lot and achieve a lot.”

When he began coaching, Boone said football is where his heart was. He then had two daughters and realized that there was rarely a strong advocate for girls and girls sports.

070322 new bb coachDoug Boone“When I started coaching my daughters and started coaching other girls, I just really found a niche there. I have loved it and have had a lot of success because of the kids. That is why I am on this side.”

The initial impression of his new athletes is the abundance of youth.

“I think that someone told me that we may even only have two seniors in the athletic program on the girls side. Basketball-wise, I don’t think I have a single senior that I know of, unless I recruit more. It is a unique place, there is no football, so that is not where all the focus is. I am former football, so I get all that stuff. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be successful in basketball and sports like that.

“This is really pretty exciting to me, because I’ve got a really good corps of freshman girls that are coming up and I always project my eighth graders and some seventh graders. Right now, Mary Joy (Cariaga), A.J. Pinkert, Katie Boyce and Destiny (Lindley) — these girls will give us a good, older group with juniors and sophomores that will help us be solid. The great thing about these girls is they seem to be very coachable. I’ve got some young girls coming up and I don’t know how they are going to play into it, and I’ve got some girls that I’ve already talked to that weren’t playing before, but they are very athletic and I think they can help our program. It may be a completely different group of kids from what you’re used to seeing. We are strong at guard; I can tell right now, but we don’t have any really true bigs.”

Due to new UIL rules, that group is able to spend an hour in sport-specific workouts, as well as sessions for cardio and weights during the week.

Boone will also head the Lady Cats’ track and field program.

“Basketball, most especially, is a sport that you cannot get away from for very long. You have to stay connected in some way, shape or fashion. We have had fairly good numbers, but I expect better numbers next summer. At the same time, you want to let them be kids. Give me June and we will play in leagues and practice basketball, and then I back off in July for them to go have fun.”

Expect the Lady Cats to run a new system when they take the floor for the first time. Boone is a fan of the packline defense and point zone defense, popularized by college coaches Dick Bennett and Dean Smith, respectively.

“I am a constant student of the game myself. I do want to see my kids and see what I have. I love running the packline defense. Depending on my kids, I have a couple of things that I feel comfortable with as a coach that I think, depending on my personnel, I can use to be successful. I am a big Villanova fan and Jay Wright fan, so I like running a lot of his four-out stuff (on offense). It doesn’t really matter the type of personnel that I have, regardless of where I have been, that seems to always work well with whoever I’ve got.”

The coach has a history of success. When he arrived at Center, they had won two games the year before and seven games the previous three years total. The team won 19 games and made the playoffs in his first year there, the first time that school had done so in 15 or 16 years.

“I give all the credit to the kids that I’ve coached, but for the 13 years that I’ve been coaching girls, I’ve only had one losing season as a head coach and that was this past year. That was a situation where it was a rebuilding — like a five-year rebuild. I kind of anticipated that, plus we had two of the top 10 teams in the state in 3A in our district alone. It is a different animal and girls basketball in West Texas. That is why you see them in the state tournament every year. Other times, I have averaged 20 wins a year and playoffs every year. I’ve had two final four experiences and I’ve had a lot of success. I don’t expect anything less here, and I want to help them get to that next point.”

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­­­It’s Miller time in Livingston

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061922 its miller timeAfter starting the Klein Cain baseball program, David Miller will now lead the Livingston Lions.

By Brian Besch
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Livingston’s new baseball coach could easily be mistaken for someone associated with the basketball program. Coming out of the coach’s office in DeWalt Field House earlier this week, the 6-foot-10 David Miller fills a door frame quickly.

But Miller has certainly not been miscast. The former pitcher spent multiple years on the diamond professionally after successful high school and college stints.

“It was a great experience,” Miller said of his playing time. “I was fortunate enough to get drafted by the Astros in 2007 out of Stephen F. Austin.”

Miller spent two years in the Astros’ organization, a year with Toronto’s and a few weeks hurling for Miami’s. He reached the High A level for a few days, spending most of his timein short-season Class A ball. From there, he played some Independent League ball and in Australia.

“When I got drafted, I had 36 hours left, so I had to go back and I kind of felt like Billy Madison a little bit, going back to school and on campus. I definitely had a different perspective on it at 26 when I was going back to school than I had at 21. I got to work with (now-Texas State pitching coach) Chad Massengale, who was the pitching coach there. In 2013, I finished up my master’s degree and I had to find something that would pay a little bit.

“I actually talked to Coach Vanover to see if he knew of anybody looking for a baseball guy. He said, ‘Yeah, we are.’ He was at Tomball Memorial at the time. I had never lived in Houston in my life and all of the sudden, I don’t know a single person down there and ended up down there for four years. Then, Klein Cain was opening up and I put in for the head baseball job there and was fortunate enough to get that job.”

There is a connection between an athlete Miller coached for the past four years and a recent Livingston graduate. Cain star outfielder Trent Baker will soon be the roommate of Damian Ruiz at Houston Baptist University.

The Fort Worth native led Cain to bi-district finalist finishes in each of the past two years. After five years at the school, Miller and his wife decided it was time to move out of Houston.

“It was a situation where Coach Vanover reached out to me and told my wife and I that he wanted us to come up and wanted us to see (Livingston). They were looking for a new head baseball coach, so we came up. We actually went and watched them when they played Sealy. That is a big move, it is not like going from Tomball to Magnolia. It is over an hour commute, so we had to make sure we wanted to do this. They showed us around and we met a bunch of people. We went to the game and Livingston beat Sealy and it was the environment that we felt like would be good.

“The community came out and came out in a big way. There was a good crowd. I am almost 7-foot tall, so I tried to be as incognito as I could. We just kind of wanted to see everything. They were extremely supportive for the team, and they were loud and intense. They were into it, and it had a feel of ‘This is what we want.’ Our son is about to be five and this is a community that we want our son to grow up in. He will begin kindergarten this year.”

Vanover and Miller’s father, Shott Miller, coached together at the old Beaumont French High School, winning a football state championship together in 1984. Shott was the head baseball coach there for 10 years, getting out of coaching and moving the family to Fort Worth soon after Miller was born during that championship season.

Miller will also coach football, where he has been a wide receivers coach in the past.
He is now working with all athletes in Livingston’s F.A.S.S.T. Camp. He estimates an average of around 18 students from the baseball squad that have come out for skill work, a handful of which have been out every day.

“I know we are returning a lot of guys and I think we only graduated three seniors,” Miller said. “We’ve got a lot of guys with experience coming back. I like the way they played. They fought and got after it and the kids seemed intense. They seemed locked in and were playing for each other. I am excited to see what we can do, and ready to get these guys lifting and as strong as we possibly can. That is something that we have had a lot of success with the past five years. I have already told the guys that I believe in the weight room and that we are going to lift and be strong. The potential to be extremely successful is here.”

The new coach sees himself as someone who emphasizes pitching and defense, saying those two components give teams a chance to win any game.

“Right now I am just seeing what we’ve got. You have to adapt to the kids that you have. If you don’t have a bunch of good hitters, but you’ve got some great arms and you can play defense, you prepare your guys to win a lot of one-run and two-run ball games. If you’ve got guys that can swing it but can’t play defensively, you’re just going to have to score more than they do. A lot of that will come when I see them out there and we will adjust. There are some things that we can do depending on what we have. We’ve got some guys that are going to have to step up. Guys that maybe they didn’t lean on as much last year are going to be leaned on more this year. We have to find some guys that will step up and that is the guys we are going to roll with.”

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All-District Softball

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061622 livingston softballThese Livingston Lady Lions were chosen as part of the 21-4A All-District team. 1st Team All-District Jaycee Knighton - SO 2nd Team All-District Allison Lytle - SO Baylee Yantes - SO Honorable Mention Janae Bland - JR Brianna Nelson - FR Carrie Parker - SR

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You can go home again

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061622 new volleyball coachIn addition to her work in academics, Danna Mitschke will serve as Onalaska head volleyball coach for the second time.By Brian Besch

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Onalaska has begun its offseason summer program, with strength and conditioning workouts Monday through Thursday. An hour-long volleyball session later in the day has been encouraging, with more than double the number of kids that were expected to show. 

Leading spike sessions is a new coach. The student athletes taking part may not remember, but many Onalaskans will recall Danna Mitschke. From 2010-2015 she was head coach of Lady Cat volleyball and has accepted the role once more.

Following the first stint, she became the science specialist at the region service center. She returned to Onalaska in 2018 with an opportunity in administration as the science and social studies instructional coach for the district. Mitschke spends her day working with teachers and learning their craft in those two subject areas.

There will be a few names the coach needs to learn, but she has a head start in building relationships with some of the athletes. She has attended games, and the summer program is in its second week, helping in that area.

“I was out of touch with the skill levels of all the kids and the names of new students that have moved in,” Mitschke said. “I have had an opportunity in our open gym and summertime workouts to get to know a lot of those kids and get to see some skills. I feel like I am more up to date than I was a week ago.”

An impressive coaching staff of three assistants has been assembled for the Class 3A volleyball program that will also ease the transition. Onalaska instructors Terri Boyce, Donna Freeman and Shelley Sears will all help teach the girls. 

It is a quick build for a coach who agreed to the position just a few weeks ago.

Look for the Lady Cats to run a 6-2 or 5-1 offense, which the coach says will depend on the talents of those at setter.

“That is going to be big,” she said of the position. “Luckily for me, all of our athletes are highly intelligent. The book smarts are there. Those kids already understand that 6-2 rotation, so I think we can stay with that. We are going to try to run double blocks if I can. We’ve got a real good senior girl coming back in Keori Rogers. She can hit if I can get her the ball right. We are going to be scrappy, I can tell you that. These kids will play their heart out.”

Mitschke will also rely on Autumn Adams, Savanna Benningfield, Kaleigh Park, Kalli Saucier and Alora Pinkert to lead the younger players.
The new coach said Onalaska Superintendent Anthony Roberts called her on a Friday to ask if she was interested.

“He said, ‘Let me scroll through my text messages. Did I see a text message on my phone, something about you coming out of retirement?’ I said, ‘What are you talking about, Anthony Roberts?’ He said, ‘I thought you might be interested in that head volleyball job.’”

Mitschke inquired if he had asked Laura Redden, the assistant superintendent and her direct boss. Roberts assured her he had. Mitschke asked what she thought of it.

“She told me that if anybody in this place could do it, it is you,” she said of Roberts’ response. “It was that quick, in a three-minute phone call. My husband teaches here on campus and I didn’t call him. He is such a good person and told me, ‘Whatever you want to do.’ By Tuesday the next week, I had been hired and met the students in the athletic period and started talking to the ladies, trying to get a coaching staff. It has kind of just fallen into place.”

Mitschke grew up in Yaupon Cove, the neighborhood a mile down the road from campus and just off the water. The decision to return to Onalaska was an easy one.

“That is back when we rode the bus to the school in Livingston,” she said of the town before a high school was established. “We would catch the bus at the elementary school, go to Livingston and come home. I lived in Yaupon Cove that whole time. When I went to high school, my parents were coaches and teachers.”

Her father, Danny Mitchell, was Livingston’s athletic director and head football coach. Alice, her mother, was head of the math department in Livingston. A job change for the both of them to New Waverly caused Mitschke to graduate a Bulldog. Yet, there is little doubt where her heart is.
“This is home. I am super happy to be here,” she said of Onalaska. “When I left for those few years to go to the service center, I could not wait to get back here. Mr. Roberts, at that time, was the high school principal. When he called and said they were interested, I said, ‘When can I come over and talk to you?’ I got back as soon as I could.”

District realignment has taken powerhouse Hardin out of 23-3A, but new entries Crockett and Shepherd should provide plenty of competition.

Anderson-Shiro, Trinity, Coldspring, Tarkington, New Waverly and Onalaska remain to form what is now an eight-team district.

We are going to be young. We will have maybe three seniors that will be returning players from last year. I don’t have the depth that I want to have right now, so it is really going to be a rebuilding-type year, but we know that going in. I have made the decision for the investment of time and effort over the next several years, trying to get this program going back the way it was. It is just going to take time. We have a lot of young ones coming in, but I think we will get the program growing.”

Connor Nichols coached the group last season, but left after just one year to take a position in Hardin.

“She did a great job with these kids,” Mitschke said of Nichols’ leadership. “They grew and got better and she has built a foundation that we are going to continue to work on and I’m appreciative for that. Because I have been here as long as I have – this is my 11th year in Onalaska – the families know who I am. I feel like there is some comfort in that. Having the kids understand my expectations and how I want them to work, we don’t have to overcome that hurdle, we already know.

“I’ve had an opportunity during open gym to come out and watch some things. I have been taking notes. Every kid is unique, so there are different things that the kids need. I think we are actually sitting in a really good spot. We have a really strong, athletic group of eighth grade girls that will be freshmen this year. That group I think got second in the volleyball tournament this year and they won the basketball district tournament. That pod of athletes coming in as freshmen will help build the foundation at our high school.”

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Livingston baseball superlatives

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Livingston Lions logo
Honorable mention 
selection Cadan Vickery.
Honorable mention selection Cadan Vickery.
District 21-4A MVP Damian Ruiz, Newcomer of the Year Kason Nelson, Coach of the Year Jarrad Maddox.Honorable mention 
selection Cadan Vickery.
District 21-4A MVP Damian Ruiz, Newcomer of the Year Kason Nelson, Coach of the Year Jarrad Maddox.Honorable mention selection Cadan Vickery.
Coach Jarrad Maddox with Team MVP Josh Smith, Lion Award winner  Jordan Huson and Defensive Player Gage Morris.
Coach Jarrad Maddox with Team MVP Josh Smith, Lion Award winner Jordan Huson and Defensive Player Gage Morris.
Honorable mention selection Jordan Huson.
Honorable mention selection Jordan Huson.
Coach Jarrad Maddox with second team all-district selections Jordan Bush, J.T. Smith and Josh Smith.
Coach Jarrad Maddox with second team all-district selections Jordan Bush, J.T. Smith and Josh Smith.
Coach Jarrad Maddox with Team MVP Josh Smith, Lion Award winner  Jordan Huson and Defensive Player Gage Morris.
Coach Jarrad Maddox with Team MVP Josh Smith, Lion Award winner Jordan Huson and Defensive Player Gage Morris.
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