When Karen Foster stepped down as Davis High girls basketball coach following two seasons of leading the Blue Devils to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs — and with nearly the entire team set to come back next year — the prevailing thought was to keep the DHS train rolling.
On Monday, Davis High principal Will Brown announced that Foster’s top assistant and junior varsity coach Heather Highshoe will take over as the conductor of the Devil program.
“It come through very clearly that Heather is a confident and caring coach,” Brown told The Enterprise. “She is the coach we wanted.”
With Highshoe, 26, at her side for both campaigns, Foster’s Blue Devil squad went 23-5 in 2012-13, making it to the section quarterfinals, then 17-10 last season before being knocked out in the first round of the SJS tournament.
“I’m very excited and grateful for the opportunity,” said Highshoe, whose JV team went 20-5 last year. “Ever since last season ended, we’ve been eager to get it going again.”
The top players from that JV squad will move up to a DHS varsity team that is already loaded with returning talent. Emma Stenz averaged a double-double last season (14.2 points, 11.9 rebounds) and joined teammate Katie Grahn on the All-Delta Valley Conference first team.
Frontcourt standouts Stenz and Caitlin Mazzoleni, who will be seniors next season, have been varsity players since their freshman year, as have guards Rachael Allison and Anna Belenis, who will be juniors in 2014-15. That class also includes Sophie Seng, the team’s sixth man last season, who played well enough to earn an All-DVC honorable mention.
“With the height we have, the speed we have and the skills we have, this year is very promising,” Highshoe explained. “I’m going to set high expectations for them. I know these girls are going to come back ready to contend for a league title and ready to go deep in the playoffs.”
If the Blue Devils are ready, it is Highshoe and assistant Brett Andersen who will have helped them stay that way this summer. Without knowing whether or not Highshoe would get the varsity post, the pair has nonetheless kept the DHS hoopsters on track by running the popular Dtown program.
Current and prospective Devil players from grades eight through 12 have been meeting four times a week for practices and summer-league games, all under the watchful eyes of the new Davis head coach and Andersen, who she hopes will stay on as her assistant and JV mentor.
Brown said Highshoe’s dedication wasn’t lost on the 12-person panel — which included himself, parents, players, teachers and a coach — tasked with selected the new head coach.
Highshoe, for her part, said it was never a question:
“Regardless of how everything turned out, Brett and I care about these girls and we want to give them every opportunity to continue to play,” said the P.E. teacher at Emerson Junior High. “I love being in the gym with these girls.”
That love of being in the gym started when the 2005 Napa High graduate was growing up in Wine Country. After an all-league prep career, she was named team MVP her freshman season at Sierra College.
Highshoe then earned a scholarship to Stanislaus State, playing her final season in 2008-09.
She has been coaching ever since, first at St. Francis, then with the NorCal Wildcats AAU program and coming to Davis High in 2012. After earning her teaching credential at Sac State, Highshoe recently finished her first full year as an instructor at Emerson.
Highshoe plans to continue with the up-tempo style Foster had the Devils running, because it’s a style she has always embraced.
“I’ve always been really big on tempo, even as a player,” Highshoe explained. “We want to determine the pace of the game and the physicality of the game.”
As for running a program, Highshoe said she has learned a lot from Foster — a 20-year Air Force veteran — especially the need for structure.
“I learned so much from Karen about how to run a program, and all of the stuff behind the (scenes),” Highshoe continued. “She taught me a lot about structure and always being prepared for every practice and every game situation.
“What really means a lot to me is providing a positive atmosphere for the girls. I’m big on team-bonding … and it’s not just about basketball. And I will hold the girls accountable.”
Notes: Highshoe is the daughter of Robert and Laura Highshoe. … Brown said there were 13 applicants for the job and that Highshoe was the only candidate from within the district. In a news release, he said the decision was made “after a diligent selection process, which included the careful vetting of each applicant, a review of Education Code and policies related to the hiring of coaches, and the diligent consideration of the interview panel.”
— Reach Chris Saur at [email protected] or 530-747-8049.