We don’t often go for someone from the same CIF section for two years in a row for one of our highest honors, but decided to do it this time with Clovis High’s Mike Noel following Madera’s Judy Shaubach as State Coach of the Year in softball. Noel guided the Cougars to their second CIF Central Section Division I title in three years and during the season won his 600th game.
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It wouldn’t be decade of softball at Clovis High without at least two or three CIF Central Section championships and for the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s there have been seven of those titles that have come with head coach Mike Noel at the helm.
Noel’s girls made it two section titles in the last three years when they topped Central of Fresno 2-1 in this year’s D1 section final on May 27 at Fresno State. Under Noel, the Cougars won previous section championships in 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2015.
With that kind of track record, plus winning his 600th game early in the season, Noel has been named as the 2017 State Coach of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports.
Noel’s selection comes one year after Madera’s Judy Shaubach (also from the CIF Central Section) gained the same honor. Shaubach also won her 600th game this season. Before 2016 and 2017, however, the CIF Central Section hadn’t had a State COY in softball since 1981.
Winning a section title is not an absolute prerequisite for becoming State Coach of the Year because in some years there are a great many of those top section titles won by teams with coaches who’ve been honored previously. Still, it’s a huge piece of the formula and it wasn’t easy for Clovis to come out on top in its section.
In the final game, the Cougars were trailing Central of Fresno 1-0 into the sixth inning and hadn’t even gotten a hit off of Central ace Gianna Mancha until the sixth. They tied it in the sixth on an RBI single by sophomore Grace Henson and then took the lead in the seventh on an RBI single by junior Ashley Kincaid. The team’s ace, junior Danielle Lung, then closed the door in the bottom of the seventh with a game-ending strikeout with two runners on base.
“Our girls know how to handle pressure. They are what we call ‘being comfortable with being uncomfortable,’” Noel told the Clovis Roundup after that game. “We get after it in practice. It’s very competitive. There is not a lot of ‘That’s OK dear’ when things aren’t going good.”
Earlier in the playoffs, Clovis had to win a 4-3 game over Bullard of Fresno and in the semifinals defeated top seed Stockdale of Bakersfield 4-2. Stockdale was nationally ranked at the time.
Two years ago, when Lung was a freshman, the Cougars snapped a seven-year dry spell of not winning the section title in a 2-0 win against Central. Lung actually pitched a no-hitter in that final and is building a prep resume similar to other Clovis softball legends such as Amanda Scott and Jamie Southern.
Noel started his coaching career at Clovis in 1995 and by 1996 and 1997 already had a streak of back-to-back section champions. He came to the school after serving two years as an assistant in the Clovis West baseball program under head coach Stan Bledsoe. Noel also played for Bledsoe when he himself was a student at Clovis West from 1984-1986.
“He was the type of guy who wanted you to play hard for the respect of the game — not just to win the game, to respect it,” said Noel in a 2008 Fresno Bee article about Bledsoe’s death. “He reminds me of what’s important, how to conduct yourself with pride for the game, how you play and who you are.”
That may have been for baseball, but Noel has brought the same respect to softball and now we’re showing some respect to him as 2017 State Coach of the Year.
All-Time List Cal-Hi Sports
State Softball Coaches Of The Year
2017 – Mike Noel, Clovis (25-6)
2016 – Judy Shaubach, Madera (26-7)
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)