One day after we were able to honor one of the winningest baseball coaches in state history, we can do it again with Lancaster Paraclete’s Margaret Neill as the State Softball Coach of the Year. Her team this year had to step up in competition and still won the CIF Southern Section Division V title. She also moved just four wins short of getting to 700 in a 37-year career.
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Let’s hear it for the Margarets, who are among the winningest high school softball coaches in California history.
Last year, the Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year was Margaret Mauro from San Diego Cathedral Catholic, who is the seventh winningest prep coach in state history. This year, we didn’t have to think too hard to select the lady who is one spot in front of Mauro – sixth winningest Margaret Neill from Paraclete of Lancaster.
And like Margaret Mauro, who is an assistant principal at her school, Margaret Neill has continued to lead the softball program at Paraclete while serving in a supervisory role, in her case as athletic director.
Neill guided this year’s squad at Paraclete to the program’s first section title and a 26-3 final record. The Spirits defeated Savanna of Anaheim 9-2 in the CIF Southern Section Division V championship.
Savanna entered the game at 31-1 and is a school with an enrollment well over 2,000. Much smaller Paraclete still prevailed with its power-packed lineup, which during the season was led by junior Kailla Searcy (22 homers, 74 RBI) but in the final game showcased junior Rylee Matson. She went 3-for-4 against the Rebels with a double, homer and four RBI.
With the win, Neill also got the taste of losing in a CIFSS final somewhat out of her mouth. It ended a streak of losses in seven straight finals, although the most recent title game loss came in 1997. Other second-place finishes came in 1981, 1986, 1990, 1991 and 1994.
Perhaps one reason why the Spirits didn’t have much difficulty with a big school like Savanna is that they played some of the best teams in Southern California earlier in the season. One of the three losses, in fact, was by just 1-0 to CIFSS Division I finalist West Ranch of Valencia.
Neill is the first softball coach ever from the Antelope Valley to be honored as State Coach of the Year. And while it’s rare for smaller schools to produce a State Coach of the Year, it’s not that rare in softball. The last state coach of the year in softball who wasn’t from a large school was Duane Zauner from Bear River (Lake of the Pines) in 2008. In 1998, the only other small schools coach on the all-time list was chosen when the overall nod went to Joe Given from Notre Dame of Salinas.
Given also happens to be a member of the state’s exclusive 700-win club. Neill improved her record this season to 696-214-3 and figures to zoom into that club next season, which would be her 38th. She would become just the sixth in state history to get to 700. Mauro is in line to be the seventh.
Collecting honors also isn’t new for Neill. In 1997, she was the Los Angeles Times’ Coach of the Year and in 2011 she was a recipient of the CIF’s Model Coach Award. In 2012, she also was named one of Los Angeles County’s Women of the Year for her contributions as a coach, educator and administrator.
In addition to softball, Neill also has a CIFSS title on her resume from 1980 in volleyball. Plus, she’s served as a volunteer for several of the CIF state volleyball championships.
“It is a long time coming so it feels great to finally capture something that so many of the teams have been working so hard for,” Neill said in a story posted recently by AngelusNews.com. “This win is naturally for all the girls on this year’s team, but it also is a program win. This one is for all the girls and coaches that have been a part of Paraclete. I am still walking around with a giant smile.”
After another honor – this one State Coach of the Year – we just hope Margaret is still smiling.
All-Time List Cal-Hi Sports
State Softball Coaches Of The Year
2015 — Margaret Neill, Lancaster Paraclete (27-4)
2014 — Margaret Mauro, San Diego Cathedral Catholic (29-3)
2013 — Mike Smith, Chino (26-2)
2012 — Rick Robinson, Norco (30-2)
2011 — Scott Smith, Hollister San Benito (29-1)
2010 — Teri Johnson, Union City James Logan (25-5)
2009 — Tony Dobra, San Pedro (28-4)
2008 — Duane Zauner, Lake of the Pines Bear River (29-3)
2007 — Mary Jo Truesdale, Sacramento Sheldon
2006 — John Perez, Corona Santiago (26-5)
2005 — Art Banks, Roseville Woodcreek (28-6)
2004 — Pete Ackermann, Westlake Village Oaks Christian (34-1)
2003 — Rob Weil, Garden Grove Pacifica (31-2)
2002 — Brad Griffith, San Diego Mira Mesa (35-1)
2001 — Gary Walin, Thousand Oaks (24-5)
2000 — Jo Ann Byrd, Corona (28-4)
1999 — Jim Liggett, Belmont Carlmont (35-4)
1998 — Joe Given, Salinas Notre Dame (30-2-1)
1997 — Alan Dugard, Irvine Woodbridge (34-2)
1996 — Nancy Acerrio, Chula Vista Hilltop (27-2)
1995 — Marie Dean, Fremont Washington (27-0)
1994 — Joe Gonzalez, Tustin Foothill (25-7)
1993 — Jill Matyuch, Covina Charter Oak (29-0-1)
1992 — Jeff Carlovsky, Escondido (26-2)
1991 — Kevin Newman, San Jose Gunderson (33-2)
1990 — Susie Calderon, Huntington Beach Marina (28-5)
1989 — Sharon Coggins, Ventura Buena (28-2)
1988 — Rich Kerr, San Lorenzo Arroyo (29-1)
1987 — Bob Regpala, Stockton Lincoln (30-0)
1986 — Dick Barnes, El Monte Arroyo (22-1)
1985 — Neils Ludlow, Woodland Hills El Camino Real (19-0)
1984 — Aaron Ishikawa, Stockton Lincoln (37-1)
1983 — Carol Hamilton, San Diego Madison (23-1)
1982 — Rich Spiekerman, Lodi (29-3)
1981 — Leslie Steffen, Hanford (20-4)
1980 — Bob Bush, Santa Maria Righetti (29-0)
1979 — Barbara Weding, Santa Rosa Montgomery (26-1)
1978 — Peggy Linville, Fairfield Armijo (23-0)
1977 — Betsy Ward, Huntington Beach Marina (17-0)
1976 — Janet Balsley, Chula Vista Hilltop (17-0)
1975 — Sally Carmen, Downey Warren (19-1)
1974 — Sandi Behrmann, El Segundo (undefeated)