Soccer: Douglas girls coach Lorraine Fitzhugh steps down
She led the Douglas girls soccer program to two state titles, two regional championships and three Sierrra League titles.
During her eight-year tenure, the Lady Tigers posted the longest unbeaten streak (32 games), the longest win streak (26) and the four winningest seasons in school history.
Through the entire stretch, Douglas made four appearances in the regional championship game and produced eight various player of the year award winners.
Now, Lorraine Fitzhugh has decided it is time to step aside.
“Simple story, it just felt like it was time,” said Fitzhugh. “My No. 1 concern was whether or not I was going to be able to return and do a good job.
“I have family out of the area that are ailing and it was a matter of facing the scenario that I may have to pick up and go and not wanting to have that happen in the middle of the season.
“It’s been a great, great time. This was a very hard decision for me, but it was just time.”
Douglas High athletic administrator Jeff Evans said Fitzhugh leaves big shoes to fill.
“She kind of brought the whole athletic program back into the limelight,” Evans said of Fitzhugh, who had been his first head coach hire when he assumed helm of the athletic department in 2005.
“We’d gone almost 10 years without a team state title and her teams went back to back there. It kind of woke the whole athletic program up and showed us where we could be.”
Fitzhugh said that was entirely due to the quality of players and coaches within the community.
“The girls are the ones who deserve all the accolades,” she said. “It was a great ride and the girls really made it what it was.
“The great thing about this program is that it’s always built from the community up.
“We’ve always had that enthusiastic soccer community that carries that passion for the game. That’s the reason the program has always done well, because there are always two or three feeder teams that have been together all through youth soccer coming into the high school.
“As a result, I always had the benefit of very knowledgeable players who were very well trained. We’ve been successful because of that.”
Douglas also benefitted from a wide-open style of play instituted by Fitzhugh that focused on combination passing and opening up a variety of options in front of the opposing net.
“She set high expectations for her players,” Evans said. “She came from a high level of soccer and she expected nothing less from her teams. She held the players to high standards, academically and athletically. I think that translated into the results they had.”
Fitzhugh played at the University of Washington and later in the U.S. National program — first with the Western Regional team in 1985, 1986 and 1987 and for the U.S. National team in 1986 and 1987,
She later played with a club team in Seattle that won a national championship in the women’s over-30 class.
She coached the Douglas boys junior varsity team in 2004 and took over the girls soccer program in 2005.
Fitzhugh posted a 138-31-13 career record and teams during her tenure claimed two academic state titles as well as the two won on the playing field.
The Lady Tigers are coming off a league championship season with as many as nine starters returning.
“It’s a nice group for someone to start with,” Fitzhugh said. “Ideally I would’ve wanted to stick around to see this class through. This particular group was so good to work with. That made the decision that much harder.
“But I’m very confident they’ll continue to see success.”
Douglas also drastically upgraded its soccer facility last summer with new bleachers, a new locker room, a snack shack and improved field quality.
“We have high hopes of getting some quality applicants,” Evans said. “It’ll be a lot like boys basketball or football in recent years, where we have a very attractive spot open up.
“We’ll be able to look at the cream of the crop and make a good hire from it.”
Evans said the job would be opened up first to applicants within the high school, then within the district and then to the broader public.
“Right now, we’re just at the beginning steps,” Evans said. “I’ve had some phone calls and some interest. We’ll look forward to seeing what happens.”
Fitzhugh, who teaches math at the high school, said she’d still be around in a supporting role.
“I’ll be in the background, but also finding that balance of not stepping on the new coach’s toes,” she said. “It’ll be their program.
“These girls have enough skill, they will be very successful. I have high hopes for them.”