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CCHS grad leading one of the state’s top teams

Alisha Kugler looks to coach Bristol to Div. IV title

COACHING SUCCESS — Alisha Kugler, originally from Wintersville, smiles with the 2018 district championship trophy last season. She looks to coach her top-seeded Bristol Panthers to a state title this season. (Contributed)

BRISTOLVILLE — The Bristol Panthers are one of the top softball teams in Division IV. In their dugout leading the way is an Ohio Valley native.

Alisha Kugler, a 2003 Catholic Central graduate and four-year softball player for the Crusaders, is in her second season as the Bristolville school’s head coach. To say her short run with the team has been successful would be understating it.

The Panthers are 16-2, the top seed in the Warren District and won their section on Wednesday with a convincing 18-0 decision over Willoughby Andrews Osborne.

Kugler, originally from Wintersville, led her unit to an 18-6 record and a regional appearance in her first season.

All of that has led to the Panthers being ranked as one of the top teams in the state by MaxPreps, but Kugler knows what matters most is what happens in the tournament.

“We have a lot of talent,” she said. “We are just trying to work together as a team to do well in the playoffs. You can do well and get ranked by computers or by coaches, but if you don’t perform well in the postseason, then it doesn’t mean anything.”

Although coaching wasn’t always something she pictured herself doing, she’s enjoyed it. She applied for the job at Bristol after moving to the Bristolville area with her husband nearly three years ago.

“I knew I wanted to go into teaching, I’m not sure that I knew that I wanted to coach,” Kugler said. “After I graduated college, the opportunity presented itself and I have been coaching since. Two years ago, I got the job at Bristol.

“It’s great. I love being able to share the game of softball with the kids and hopefully teach them some life lessons along the way.”

Although it’s roughly 90 miles north of the area, Kugler said there are a lot of comparisons between Bristolville and her hometown.

“It’s similar I would say,” She said. “When we started meeting people when we got here, people were very welcoming and it kind of makes you feel like you’re right at home. It reminds me of home a lot.”

Before her time as a coach, Kugler played college softball at John Carroll University.

“My proudest accomplishment in softball would be being able to go play in college and be a starter,” she said. “It showed all the hard work I put in paid off.”

Her time at Catholic Central also left a lasting impact that she uses in her approach as a coach.

“The values of treating other people with respect and compassion,” Kugler said of what she took away from being a Crusader. “Trying to teach kids in a way that is respectful and in a way that they can understand, and not get upset about mistakes necessarily and give them the encouragement that they need to be successful.”

Growing up in the Ohio Valley has also shaped how she coaches.

“The importance of family and supporting the people you love and care about,” She said of the values she learned growing up in the Ohio Valley. “That is something I try to instill in my players. I tell them that on the field we have to be a family. I know that a large group of girls aren’t necessarily going to get along off the field all the time, but on the field we have to play together. Because, if you don’t play together, you can have all the talent in the world and you’re not going to get anywhere.”

The goal is simple for Kugler and her team — win a state championship. Although, she knows the road to achieving it will not be easy.

“State championship is the goal, but we are taking it one game at a time,” she said. “We made it to the regional semis last year, and to get back there we have to get back through district semis and the district final. I know we are going to face good teams, so we have to take it one game at time right now.”

The next step on that journey is this evening when her Panthers play No. 4 seed Kinsman Badger at Candlelight Knolls-Warren in the district semifinals.

(Grimm can be reached at agrimm@heraldstaronline.com)

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