Entering the 2011 season, the Homewood-Flossmoor softball program had not won a regional title since 2004.
Seven years surely doesn't seem that long, but at a school with the athletic tradition of Homewood-Flossmoor, such a drought stands out.
In the time since the program last hoisted a plaque, the school's teams have won 23 regional titles, 28 sectional titles, qualified for state 12 times and brought back two state titles.
So when Katie Rice-Hoger took the helm this spring, she decided it was time the softball team got on board.
"I expected a lot of my girls this year," Rice-Hoger said. "I had previously coached a lot of them, so we went right from the get go. The girls knew where we were at and how passionate we are about the game. We just worked hard in the offseason and then the girls proved it on the field."
The Vikings made a name for themselves in the regular season by upsetting heavily favored teams. And when the postseason rolled around, they upset Stagg to finally win that regional plaque. For those reasons, Rice-Hoger is the Times Coach of the Year.
"I knew we had the potential. I knew we had the talent to get as far as we did," Vikings senior Jessica Markanich said. "We wouldn't have had the season we did if it wasn't for Coach Rice."
H-F's final record was 18-15, but that number doesn't do the Vikings' season justice.
The Vikings played 13 teams that were ranked in the season-ending Illinois Coaches Association top 20 poll.
"Obviously our conference is tough in general, but all of our nonconference games are against great competition as well," Rice-Hoger said. "Our record definitely doesn't reflect our talent.
"We talked all year about being underestimated. I think our schedule proved that we can hold our own against any team. Those games prepared us for later on in the season and the playoffs."
Markanich said that getting up for all of those big games was never a problem.
"(Coach) always tells us that we can have a lot of fun, but when it comes to game time, we will play how we practice," the Vikings outfielder said. "Bascially, just go out there and kick some butt."
Of course, Markanich and her teammates weren't the only ones having fun this year.
After moving up from the sophomore position, Rice-Hoger said that her inaugural season was everything she could have hoped for.
"I'm definitely looking forward to next year already," the Vikings coach said. "We've said, 'Hey, H-F can do it,' you know, we got to sectionals, which we haven't done in years. So our girls can see that now, and hopefully push even harder next year."