Although rain poured on the first official day of spring practice, a prestigious softball program looks to have plenty of sunny days ahead.
After winning two state championships with Soddy-Daisy as a player and claiming the 2016 Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year award at Kentucky, 25-year old Kelsey Nunley has returned home to be the Lady Trojans head coach.
Playing professionally in the National Pro Fastpitch league for USSSA Pride in Florida, Nunley kept receiving phone calls from Soddy-Daisy athletic director Jared Hensley.
"Every year since I graduated college, Hensley has asked me if I was ready to come back and coach," said Nunley, who went 21-6 with a 1.59 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 186 1/3 innings for Kentucky in her award-winning senior year. "I had worked with young girls in pitching lessons and really enjoyed it, so I figured if I love this 1-on-1 thing I am probably going to like working with a team. I didn't expect to become head coach, but God had a different plan for me."
Nunley remembers the pride and work ethic her teams had at Soddy-Daisy playing under legendary former Lady Trojans coach Clifford Kirk. In 2010 and 2012 Soddy-Daisy won the Class AAA state championship with a record-setting 52-2 season to begin the decade.
Some of her first-year goals are to raise the standard and expectations for the Lady Trojans.
"My coaches when I was here expected us to be great and anything less was not acceptable," Nunley said. "They created this standard that if we don't win state it's not a successful year. Our team took that mentality over and I want our team to have that same work ethic. When the coaches and players expect that day in and day out it makes a difference."
The Lady Trojans have won seven of their eight state championships since 1999 and bring back plenty of power at the plate from last year's 25-12 squad that had its season ended in the District 5-AAA tournament.
Nunley believes having a plethora of weapons in the pitching circle will be needed to go far instead of relying on one primary pitcher. While playing professional softball she called her own pitches, which she said helped her learn more about the game.
"Our big focus is defense," Nunley said. "Offensively they have been really decent with the bat in the past and we still want to swing it with the best of them. We want to execute the small details better. If we can field the ball cleanly we will be a tough team to beat."