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Evaluating success helps Marble Falls sports administrators implement more building blocks

CAPTION: Davis Dreisbach (left) and Kody Smith are two reasons why the Marble Falls High School basketball team won the District 24-4A crown in 2022-23. Both return this year. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

It had been awhile since the Marble Falls High School athletic department enjoyed a winter and spring like the one it experienced during the 2022-23 school year.

Perhaps the best example might be in the early 2000s when athletes such as Farren Fox, Ashley Laughlin, Leonel Manzano, Danielle Pegues, Jillian Phillips, Brian Price and Carter Tynes led the athletic program to victories and deep playoff runs. Others, such as Kelsey Ainsley, Katy Cooke, Katie Meador and Morgan Shell, led the Lady Mustang basketball team to the Class 4A state tournament, the best finish in school history during the 2006-07 season.

But as great as those athletes were, they didn’t win the number of district championships in one year like the Mustangs and Lady Mustangs did in 2022-23. The biggest reason is the drop down to another classification where Marble Falls is among the largest in enrollment as opposed to one of the smallest in another class. The drop means not facing opponents whose high school enrollments are twice the size of Marble Falls.

Still a move from one classification to another doesn’t ensure success. And most people aren’t interested in being one-hit wonders.

That’s why athletic director Brian Herman and assistant athletic director John Berkman took a hard look at the department toward the end of the school year to document what worked well and how to keep it going and how to improve for the 2023-24 school year.

“Many of us understand the move to Class 4A gave us an opportunity,” Herman said. “What will we do with it? I was very pleased with every single sport from start to finish.”

That includes district titles in boys cross country, girls basketball, boys soccer and baseball and runner-up finishes in girls soccer and boys golf. The golf team finished 10th at the state tournament. Meanwhile, the boys powerlifting team won the state championship of the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters.

As the two administrators looked at what worked, they examined personnel. Herman noted one of the most vital hires during the summer of 2022 was when Sonny Wilson joined the staff as a football and basketball coach. Wilson is known for sharing his positive energy and enthusiasm with the Mustangs that gave them a little extra in being able to close out opponents late in a game.

This summer, the department added two more hires Herman is equally happy about. They are Aspen Howie and Hailey Wooten. Wooten is a two-time district coach of the year during her four years as the head coach of the Burnet Lady Dawgs. And though the Lady Mustangs didn’t have the results they wanted, Herman said he could see improvement throughout the season.

He credits head coach Alex Lozoya, another summer 2022 hire, for the program’s growth. Herman commended Lozoya for the way the Lady Mustangs played, especially considering the team had a mix of veterans and newcomers and how he leads a program.

“I don’t know if we’re able to hire those two coaches (without Lozoya being on staff),” the athletic director said. “You couldn’t have picked a better person to learn from.”

The sports that didn’t enjoy postseason success, football and volleyball, received longer looks and evaluations, Herman said.

“We all took some inventory on what we’re doing or not doing,” he said. “And everybody else that experienced greater success in 15 years, why were they successful?”

Part of that with the football program involved helping athletes become more vocal leaders by asking them to speak to their teammates, conducting more team building sessions, and continuing to train together so athletes can see their teammates putting in the work, too.

“We had a couple of good years,” said Herman, who is the football head coach. “Maybe we missed a step. We learned from our mistakes, and we won’t let that happen again. We’re still going to fight and do what we have to do.”

Herman said some very revealing conversations were conducted in volleyball.

“We dug into where we can find improvement,” he said. “In every conversation, there was honesty and willingness to do what it takes to improve. As long as you continue looking at what you’re doing and make improvements, what more can you ask?”

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