Under new leadership, Lady Hounds set for clean slate in 2018

SAN BENITO — The San Benito Lady Greyhounds are looking to hit the ground running this season and, like every year, are expected to compete for a district title. The difference this time around is that they will try to do so under the watch of a new head coach.

Denise Lira was named the Lady Hounds’ softball coach last year replacing Kristy Leal, who went to Mercedes. Lira brings a wealth of experience from the college level. Over the course of 13 seasons, she has spent time at ConcordiaUniversity as a head coach, the University of the Incarnate Word as a first assistant and at Mary Hardin-Baylor as an assistant.

“We’re excited to hit the ground running,” Lira said. “We’re working in some kids at new positions and we’re going through the basics on what needs to get done. The kids are excited to be out here and are ready to work.”

The Lady Hounds have a core of five seniors who look to play a vital role in 2018. Joanna Gonzalez, Audrey Huerta, Megan Ybarra, Aaliyah Rangel and Deztiny Hernandez all return and have playoff experience.

“I tell the younger girls to relax when you come into this program,” Gonzalez said. “We have our team set and we know what the expectations are. Most importantly, they need to relax and have fun because that’s what makes this game special.”

Last season, the Lady Hounds reached the postseason and won a bi-district title before falling in the area round. This season, the pieces are in play for San Benito to be in the district title race and make a deep playoff run.

San Benito also holds a strong group of juniors highlighted by AJ Jasso and Sarah Garcia. Jasso, who provides a top-of-the-order bat and solid glove in the outfield, will be aided by Garcia, who can play shortstop and has experience in the circle.

“It’s great to be back on the field, especially with this group of girls,” Jasso said. “I love working hard with them. I missed being out here on the field. We have a great chemistry with each other. Coach Lira has taught me a lot since she got here. We’re excited to have her as our coach.”

The Lady Hounds will have an uphill battle in what is looking to be the toughest district in the Valley with Weslaco, Harlingen South, Los Fresnos and Harlingen all in the mix.

“There are times were the older girls lead vocally and then there are times they lead by example,” said Lira. “They’re a great core group. This district is going to be great and competitive. Every game will be anyone’s game and we’re going to take care of what we can take care of, and take it one game at a time. Right now we’re focused on getting everyone together and moving on the same page.”