Three days after the end of one of the most successful softball season ever at Highland High School, head coach Brittne’ Zobrist found out she would not be returning to the Bulldogs’ bench.
Highland, which won 24 games and the only sectional championship in program history, fell to Springfield’s Sacred Heart-Griffin in the Class 3A Super Sectional on June 9. On June 12, Zobrist was told her first season as head coach would be her last.
“It was not my decision,” she said. “Let’s just say our visions for the program did not align.”
Athletic Director Steve Lanxon, whose tenure also ended with his retirement at the end of the school district’s fiscal year, wouldn’t discuss the particulars of Zobrist’s dismissal. He said only that he likes Zobrist personally, but that she wasn’t ready for all the responsibilities of a head coach.
“All coaches are on a one-year contract,” Lanxon said. “It was just a decision that we felt was best for the program.”
Zobrist, 26, said she is disappointed by the decision, particularly given the on-field success her team had in the spring and the wealth of young talent returning for the coming seasons.
A 2007 graduate of HHS, Zobrist was a standout catcher for former coach Sharon Schmitz. She served as a volunteer assistant at Highland for several season — even as she attended classes full time at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville — and was the Bulldogs’ junior varsity coach in 2014.
Zobrist is not on the faculty at HHS. She works as a human resources generalist at Hussmann Corp. in Bridgeton, Mo.
She says she’ll continue to coach in area summer leagues, but would likely not continue coaching at the high school level if not at her alma mater.
“I guess it kind of depends if the right opportunity came along,” she said. “The thing is I really, truly love Highland and it would be awfully hard to coach against them. If they would ever have me back, I’d be very happy to do it.”
Lanxon said the district will intensify its search for a new head coach once the new school year begins in August. Whoever gets the job inherits a team with plenty of promise.
The Bulldogs held a lead in the fifth inning of the Class 3A Springfield Super Sectional and were two innings away from their first ever state tournament berth. Sacred Heard-Griffin tied the game in the sixth and rallied with four in the seventh to end Highland’s season.
But Highland had just two upperclassmen on its roster and lost only shortstop Mallory Rutz to graduation. The 2016 edition of the Bulldogs will be anchored by a talented class of juniors and sophomores that include pitchers Aubrey Hacke, Kirsten Plocher, Addison Rinderer and Jenna Gnaedinger.
“I fully enjoyed this last season,” Zobrist said. “I had some great girls and we had a great season. Those memories will last forever. I won’t lose those.”