PRESSURE?: Caty Lieseke, After Five Years on Staff, Takes Over as Head Coach of Defending State 2A Champs
By Aaron VanTuyl
Caty Lieseke’s already heard it enough: No pressure.
It comes, of course, in a joking tone; there’s plenty in the way of expectations and pressure involved in taking over what’s arguably the state’s most successful 2A fastpitch program.
Lieseke, though — hired in late June to succeed Mike Keen as W.F. West’s head softball coach — has had five years to pick up on the the ins and outs of the program.
“This is a program that has tradition and history, and just because the third coach in 20-odd years is stepping in, doesn’t mean any of that is going away,” she said. “The program sets high standards, and those are standards I plan to keep.”
Lieseke grew up in Port Orchard, graduated from South Kitsap High School in 2007 and played softball — catcher and first base — at Whitworth University. She’d played with former Bearcat standouts Shalene and Sam Petrich in high school and recognized the name W.F. West when she was looking for her first job back in 2012. A week later, she was on her way to Chehalis to teach AP calculus and algebra.
She’d been an assistant coach at Mt. Spokane High School, but had originally planned to take a year off to get settled as a teacher in Chehalis.
“But the first time I met anybody on staff, Mike (Keen) walked up and said, ‘You’re gonna be my new assistant, right?’” she recalled. She quickly joined the coaching staff, and led the JV team last season.
Keen retired at the end of the 2016-17 school year, after 15 years as the Bearcats’ head coach. The team hasn’t missed the state tournament since 2003, hasn’t lost a District 4 tournament game since 2011 and has won two of the last three state titles, including the 2017 championship.
One of the biggest aspects of coaching she picked up from working with Keen: Just take it easy.
“I loved seeing how well-balanced he lived. You never felt like it was life-or-death,” she said. “I liked that it was, never take it, or yourself, too seriously. Eat the cookies.”
The former coach, of course, offered her advice:
“Make this your own thing,” she said. “This has been successful; things have gone well. Take what you like, and make it your own.”
She’ll have plenty of experience to work with in her debut season. The Bearcats return six starters, including Evergreen 2A Conference co-Offensive MVPs Kindra Davis (third base) and Olivia Dean (shortstop), and a total of four All-Area players.
“I’m really excited for this group of kids,” she said. “Just knowing who we have, and just the future of that is a cool place to be as a coach.”
Outside of the change at the top, the Bearcat coaching staff — including Jenny Taylor, Kevin Zylstra and Meagan Corey — is expected to remain intact.
“That was a big pro for all of us,” Lieseke said. “We like who we work with. It’s a good family, to keep that together.”
And, she pointed out, Chehalis isn’t a bad place to coach softball.
“This community just brings so much talent out, and supports the culture of softball so well,” she said. “Even though we’re not in a big city, the kids have access to those bigger teams nearby, which I think really helps kids find those opportunities. And we have community members that have those facilities to let kids come in and practice, and adults that are all about support.”