Folliard, Richards reached great heightsRichards coach Julie Folliard celebrates with her players following their sectional championship victory. | Photo supplied
Julie Folliard has been right many times during her high school softball coaching career.
But she couldn’t have been more correct in her thinking when she projected a very good season for her Bulldogs in 2011.
“I knew we’d have some raw talent, but I also knew we had some talent that would be developing further this year,” she said. “It was just a matter of how well they would mesh.”
How about a 28-0 start?
“Oh, I don’t know that anyone could ever predict a run like that,” Folliard said, smiling. “But I was excited about this year.”
Her Bulldogs delivered more victories than any other team in the history of the program. Richards, advancing to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1984, finished at 32-3 and No. 1 in the Southland.
Folliard, meanwhile, is the 2011 Jenny’s Steakhouse/SouthtownStar Softball Coach of the Year.
A 1982 Richards graduate, Folliard has a 540-215 career record. In 23 seasons as the Bulldogs head coach, she’s had 20 or more victories 20 times. Her teams have captured nine regional titles.
This one, Folliard said, went beyond the talent in the right arm of Brianna LeBeau, the power bat of Hannah Jenkins and the senior leadership of Kailie Tobin.
“This team really accepted their roles, cherished their roles,” Folliard said. “I think it’s very important to work a lot on team chemistry and respecting each other.
“It sounds so old cliché, respect each other, etcetera. But really, if you can respect each other, then you’re not afraid to bring out your best, no matter what it looks like, because you’re not being judged.
“This year we had 14 girls who were not afraid to bring out their best.”
Folliard was a three-sport athlete at Richards, but her field of dreams was the softball diamond. She was an all-conference second baseman as a senior and played college ball at Illinois State University and St. Francis College.
Her coaching mentor was Larry Layne, who guided Richards to a second-place finish at state in 1984. When Folliard was hired as the head coach at Richards in 1989, she convinced Layne to stay on as an assistant for one year. He volunteered to remain in that role for five more.
Folliard, meanwhile, has spent more than two decades as one of the school’s most successful — and popular — coaches.
“She’s been very consistent,” Richards athletic director Ken Styler said. “When you think about her, you just think consistent winner. Year in and year out she always has a great product on the field, and works hard at it. She’s very passionate, very knowledgeable, very well-experienced. It’s paid off.”