Randall’s Haleigh Burns and Hereford’s Catherine Foerster earned the inaugural Press Pass Sports Volleyball Coach of the Year honor after leading their respective teams to banner seasons in 2019.
Burns and Foerster had magical runs through the playoffs in their classifications as both led their team to University Interscholastic League state runner up appearances.
Burns makes her mark
When Burns took over at Randall last spring for veteran coach Jason Culpepper, she knew expectations were about to change.
Burns went from never coaching in the postseason during her four-year stint at Caprock to being expected to win a District 3-5A championship.
The pressure nor the moments were to big for Burns, knowing she didn’t have to reinvent the wheel with a tradition-rich Lady Raiders program that had a senior-laden team returning.
But what Burns was able to do in her first season was nothing short of remarkable. Never winning more than 20 games in a season, Burns put her own stamp on a Lady Raiders team that went 43-4 overall. She went 16-0 in District 3-5A, claiming the program’s third straight district title, while extending Randall’s district win streak to 41 straight matches.
Burns also beat Bell Street rival Amarillo High on three separate occasions.
Canyon ISD athletic director Toby Tucker said Burns has been a delight to see grow on the sideline.
“I think the main thing coach Burns did is she made it her team,” Tucker said. “She did a great job building relationships and relating to the athletes. She was a class act all season and a joy to work with. It’s been a pleasure to see what she’s done.”
Burns took Randall on a thrilling playoff ride, which included a come-from-behind heart stopping five-set victory against Grapevine in a Region I-5A semifinal.
Coaching in her first ever UIL state tournament, Burns and the Lady Raiders beat San Antonio Alamo Heights for the program’s first semifinal win in 10 years.
From a coach that never even tasted the playoffs in five years of coaching, Burns leaned on her team every step of the way to six gold balls during the postseason.
“It was an unbelievable year,” said Burns who has an all-time coaching record of 116-86. “It was everything I dreamed of as a coach. I had been waiting for this for so long. I’m honored to be where I’m at. It’s a testament to my team. They worked so hard all season. I believed in them and they believed in me.”
Foerster brings proud tradition back to Hereford
Foerster lives and breathes Hereford volleyball. Maroon and white is in her blood as a 2003 Hereford graduate.
Known by her maiden name of Beville in high school she was a part of two state championships in 1999 and 2001 under legendary coach and mentor Brenda Kitten.
Kitten, who is now the girls athletic director for for Hereford, says she couldn’t be more proud of watching her protégé lead the Lady Whitefaces back to prominence.
“If was such a fun year” said Kitten, who led Hereford to to five state championships (1996, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2008). “Catherine is so invested in this community. She was a ball girl for us, and followed always followed our program. She was feisty as a player also. Her spirit rub offs on players, the community, and a lot of and earns a lot of trust.”
Foerster is now in that company with Kitten, being the first coach to lead Hereford to a UIL state tournament for the first time since 1996.
Foerster and the Lady Whitefaces finished 35-15 overall and co-champions of District 3-4A with a 7-1 mark.
Hereford caught fire at the Region I-4A Tournament when they swept past then No. 1-ranked Argyle in a semifinal matchup, followed by another sweep of Krum in the regional final that punched their ticket to state.
Foerster’s team didn’t slow up there. In a Class 4A semifinal at the Culwell Center in Garland, the Lady Whitefaces kept their momentum rolling by downing Carthage in straight sets.
The magical run did come to a heartbreaking end at the hands of Lamar Fulshear in the state title match, but it didn’t take away the ground work laid down by Foerster and her team.
“I think it’s something we cant take for granted,” said Foerster who is 196-146 in six seasons as the Hereford coach. I’ve said this a lot but this season was surreal. I think it’s unique in how the team and community bonded and all came together. The crowd we had at state was unbelievable for us just like they were all season. I’m just so proud of this team.”