Roughly a month after winning the Class B state championship in softball, Holden High School has a new coach.
David Knight, who guided the Lady Rockets to a 32-1 record this past season, resigned as head softball coach, and his assistant coach, Linzey Cifreo, will take over the program.
"It was a really hard decision," Knight said of the resignation. "My wife and I, we've talked about it. We've prayed about it, and I have peace that the good Lord is going to send me somewhere else and send me something else to do and that this will be best for the program."
Cifreo, a May 2016 graduate of Louisiana-Lafayette and former catcher on the school's softball team, said team members were informed of the coaching change at Thursday night's Livingston Parish School Board meeting, where the team was recognized for winning the state title.
"They were excited," said Cifreo, who was slated to leave Holden to take over as softball coach at Southside, a new school Youngsville. "Initially, I was supposed to be leaving Holden, and so for them to find out that I was staying, it was kind of an emotional experience for me and the players."
Cifreo, a 2011 graduate of Walker High who was a member of the 2014 Louisiana-Lafayette team which advanced to the Women's College World Series, said her decision to stay put wasn't difficult.
"I have family here," she said. "I grew up in Livingston Parish, and that made the decision a lot easier to stay. And of course the connection with the girls and the community of Holden -- it was hard to leave in the first place, so when I had the opportunity to stay as a head coach, it's something you can't pass up."
Knight said his goal is to get back into coaching football. He coached football for 8 years at Loranger Middle School before coming to Holden to take over the softball program.
"Well, I've always coached boys, and I've always coached football," Knight said. "When I stepped into the softball thing, it was new to me and I learned a lot. Man, I really enjoyed it. I've enjoyed my time coaching this particular group of kids, and this group of girls, but I would like to try to get back into football. I would like to try to get back to coaching football somewhere."
Knight, who guided the Lady Rockets for four seasons, including a Class B state runner-up finish last season, will continue to teach at Holden.
"I'm still going to teach at Holden, but I'm just not going to coach softball," Knight said. "Now, if I could find a football job that would have a teaching position, obviously, I would take that. But my kids are still at Holden, and so I'm going to teach there until I find me a football spot."
Cifreo will have a young team to work with as the state championship team lost only senior Brianna Reason. The remainder of the roster was made up of 8th-graders through juniors, including District 7-B MVP pitcher Olivia Lackie.
All 11 players on Holden's state championship team earned All-District honors, including six first-team selections in Lackie, catcher Ashley Fogg, infielders Madison Knight and Olivia Barnes, Reason as an outfielder and utility player Emma Hutchinson.
Knight earned 7-B Coach of the Year honors, and is hopeful his successor can continue the Lady Rockets' recent run.
"You know, and it may be time for somebody else to take over this program, somebody that can do more with it or take it farther," Knight said. "I'm hoping that with the success we've had that whoever they get in there will be able to continue on, because they should have a shot at winning a couple more of these -- maybe three of these. They're just an amazing group of girls."
But Cifreo said nothing is a given, even with so many players set to return next season.
"Everyone's like, 'Oh, well, you've got it (state championship) the next three years', and it's a lot harder than that," she said. "It's a lot easier said than done. I don't feel pressure at all. I'm extremely excited to be in the position that we're in. And of course that comes with you've got to put in the work to get back there, and I think the kids know that. They know the task. They know how hard it was to get there, and they know what's got to be done to get back. They know nothing's going to be handed to them, that's for sure."
Holden Principal Kris Rountree said Cifreo is the perfect person to take over for Knight.
"We feel like as Coach Knight steps down in reference to the future, she's exactly what we need, because we have a great group of young kids that we feel she can move forward, and her experiences will help them as they move forward," she said.
Cifreo, who thanked Knight "for everything he's done for the program," said she's planning on implementing some of her own subtle changes next season.
"Everybody has their own philosophy and their own way to do things," she said. "Some things are more so important to one coach and not as important to another coach. So everybody's different, you know. So there are going to be some changes for Holden softball next year, but it's nothing drastic. Nothing crazy."
Knight said he's pleased with what his team's accomplishments during his tenure.
"I really do care about my players," Knight said. "I do a lot for them. A lot of little things that my players don't even know -- they just expect it to get done. But that's what coaches do. There's plenty of coaches in America that do the same thing that just weren't as blessed to win one of these (state championships) as I was. I was just fortunate enough to win one, so it's hard. The coach that is there with the kids every day, it tears me apart to walk away. (If I were) the coach that's just looking to win trophies, it would be an easy decision."
"You want to leave the program better than you found it," Knight said. "That's what every coach hopes to do, and I hope I left this one better than I found it. And I hope that whoever can come in can push the girls and go on and see the success that we had that they're capable of doing over the next couple years ... they have a bright future in front of them."