In an absolute twist of fate, Kerilyn Mongar has taken over the Ooltewah High School girls’ softball program following the resignation of Jon Massey shortly after the 2018 state tournament.
Massey has since been named boys’ baseball coach at Silverdale Baptist Academy and Mongar, who coached at East Ridge for three years, now has the task of continuing the Lady Owls’ highly successful five-year run under Massey’s guidance that included three state tournament appearances and two third-place finishes.
Mongar, who played college softball at Tennessee Tech, coached volleyball and tennis at Sequatchie County prior to assuming the softball job with the Lady Pioneers, but completes the full circle back to Ooltewah where she graduated in 2006.
“I have big expectations from the girls playing softball at Ooltewah,” Mongar said Friday in a telephone interview. “They lost a lot of talent, but had a lot of depth last season. There’s a great group of younger girls coming along as well. I’m ready and I believe a path has been set up for me to pick up where coach Massey left off.”
Jensen Morgan, Ooltewah’s new athletic director, said of Mongar, “I think it’s great she’s an Ooltewah graduate and coming back to Ooltewah where she played and she’ll have a lot of energy for the girls. The whole school is looking forward to what she can do with the softball program.”
Just how all this occurred is quite a tale.
Mongar was “burned out” while wrapping up her third year coaching the East Ridge softball team and serving as an assistant with the Lady Pioneers’ volleyball squad, telling herself there was basically no break between the two sports and it was taxing mentally.
Mongar had not given a thought to leaving East Ridge, but it was clear the double-dose of coaching was taking a toll.
“I was personally burned out,” Mongar said. “I had a really tough time in the fall with volleyball.”
However, while gave a look-see at teacher openings on the Hamilton County School website, which she sometimes did, one for physical education and weight training at Ooltewah caught her eye.
While Mongar coached the Lady Pioneers during the District 6-2A softball tournament, Ooltewah officials contacted her about the vacant position.
“I thought how awesome would it be to give back to the school that made me who I am,” Mongar said. “I received an email and people at Ooltewah wanted to talk to me and get to know me. We later talked in what I thought was just an informal type interview, something like having dinner with friends.
“I loved being at East Ridge and had no plans to leave because it was a big deal to me teaching there and learning more about coaching from Catherine Neely (legendary coach and now athletic director) and others.”
But, the tug on Mongar’s heart strings was pulling hard.
“So, I leaped at what I thought was a great teaching opportunity when Ooltewah offered me the teaching job. I loved my time at East Ridge and also thought it would be great to be back at Ooltewah and that made the decision really hard. I was perfectly content to go there and teach, even if it meant I wouldn’t be coaching. In the back of my mind, I was thinking if someone needed help with volleyball, basketball or softball, I would be willing to do that.”
With job in hand, Mongar has assisted volleyball coach Elaine Peigen and girls’ basketball coach Lester Galyon with offseason work, but Massey resigned and that gave Mongar another option.
“I was working with volleyball and basketball because they needed a female coach,” Mongar said. “Some of the girls from softball told me that coach Massey had resigned at the banquet. I jumped on that quick by sending an email to Jensen Morgan my interest in coaching softball, even if it was as an assistant.”
In short time, Morgan selected Mongar as the Lady Owls’ head coach.
Ironically, Ooltewah also hired Mongar’s middle sister, Jalayne, who will be an assistant coach on her older sister’s staff. The Mongar patriarch, Jerry, will be helping with the Lady Owls, a similar role he had with LeeAnne Shurette at Central High School. Shurette is a sister to Kerilyn and Jalane as well.
“Jalayne pitched at Lee University and I think she’ll do a great job handling the pitching program,” the head coach said. “Dad coached all the sisters and his role will be to provide a good support system. He keeps me grounded. When I might expect more from the girls, he pulls me aside and reminds me I didn’t always know what I was trying to get out of the girls. Kids always respond well to dad.”
Mongar hasn’t met with her returning players, but plans to do that after school resumes in August.
As East Ridge’s coach, Mongar took the Lady Pioneers to the Lady Owls Invitational all three years.
Mongar will serve as an assistant on volleyball Elaine Peigen’s staff, replacing Heidi Moses, now an assistant principal at Ooltewah. Moses was also an assistant on Massey’s softball staff.
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @larryfleming44)