A standout on Ceres High School's varsity softball team from 2005-07, Kristen Ghimenti spent one year as an assistant coach at her alma mater before being named leader of crosstown-rival Central Valley's program.
Ghimenti just completed her third year of coaching with the Hawks.
She was voted Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year by her peers this past month in Los Banos.
"Honestly, I was really surprised," Ghimenti said. "I didn't expect to get it. It's very humbling because we have so many great coaches in our league."
Central Valley posted a 9-9 overall record and finished in fourth place in the WAC standings (5-7).
The Hawks struggled to a 3-9 record in conference play last season.
Central Valley dropped 11 of 12 games in 2012.
"Our program's changed over the last two years," Ghimenti said. "We went from the bottom of the league to vying for a playoff spot."
Central Valley seniors Lexy Cordova, Sarah McElroy and Nicholette Mendez earned all-conference honors.
"They were more focused this year on softball," Ghimenti said. "They shared the leadership role. It will be hard to find girls to take their spots. They're irreplaceable."
Cordova and McElroy, four-year varsity players, were selected to the WAC Second Team.
Lexy, Central Valley's ace pitcher, totaled 57 strikeouts.
She batted .262 with eight RBIs, eight runs and four stolen bases.
"She was a crucial part of our success," Ghimenti said. "She was hungrier this year. She really improved in that respect, her mental toughness."
Sarah, Central Valley's leadoff hitter and second baseman, batted .291 with six RBIs, 10 runs and seven stolen bases.
"She was one of the best second basemen in the league," Ghimenti said. "She was so fun to watch."
Nicholette, the Hawks' starting centerfielder, was an honorable-mention selection.
She batted .321 with six RBIs, 12 runs and eight stolen bases.
Mendez played varsity softball at Ceres High her freshman year. Ghimenti was an assistant coach.
"She's an amazing kid on and off the field," Ghimenti said.
Central Valley won two of its first four conference games this season.
The Hawks placed second in Pool E with a 3-1 record at the Ceres High tournament.
"That set a tone for the season," Ghimenti said. "Everybody wants to win and be successful. The most rewarding thing about coaching is getting to be around the girls. I teach some of them. You get to know the students on a personal level."
Ghimenti coached with Ceres High leader Donnie Donaldson for two seasons.
She was an assistant on Donaldson's staff in 2007.
Kristen and Donnie also worked together for one season with the Tri County Smash Softball Organization.
Donaldson was Ghimenti's coach for three years at the prep level.
"I was vying for Kristen to get it (coach of the year)," Donaldson said. "She played and coached for me. She reaches her goals a lot faster than other people do. She's amazing. I'm extremely proud of her and what she accomplished."