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LA skipper selected Coach of the Year

MERRY HILL – Truitt Johnston inherited a double-edged sword.

On one hand, seventy-five percent of a team that claimed the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA) state title in 2004 returned for the Lady Warriors in 2005.

The other edge however, was taking over for a popular coach in Gennia Winslow who had won a state title and made two other championship appearances before resigning to take care of her business.

So, while Johnston wasn’t hurting for talent in 2005, he was having to live with expectations that were higher than many could match. Anything less than repeating as state champions would be considered failure for the first-year coach.

Johnston never let the expectations get to him and never let Winslow’s popularity deter him as he worked methodically towards directing Lawrence to his and their lofty goal.

&uot;Truitt was truly a driving force for our team,&uot; Warrior Athletic Director John Quinn said. &uot;He pushed our team out of past their comfort point. At times, he made them work harder than they wanted to, but it paid off in the end.&uot;

Paid off indeed.

Johnston helped his team put together a 21-2 season and directed the Lady Warriors to their second consecutive NCISAA state title.

Along the way, Lawrence won the Tarheel Independent Conference regular season and tournament titles. He also had three players who earned All-State honors from his squad.

While Johnston was busy guiding the Lady Warriors to their second state title, his predecessor was never far away.

&uot;Truitt and I coached together since our kids were 10 years old,&uot; Winslow said. &uot;He’s competitive. He wants to win and that’s what he devotes himself to.&uot;

Winslow said some people had indicated a vast difference in coaching styles between the two, but she didn’t see it.

&uot;I think we’re very similar in the way we coach,&uot; Winslow said. &uot;When I watch Truitt coaching, I can tell we are a lot alike in the way we approach the game.&uot;

In fact, Winslow was the tournament director for this year’s NCISAA title game and said she was ecstatic to see the Warriors repeat.

&uot;Truitt worked hard and worked the girls hard to make sure they were in a position to win,&uot; she said. &uot;I was happy for the girls to repeat and I was happy for Truitt too.&uot;

The success enjoyed by the Warriors and Johnston’s responsibility didn’t escape his players.

&uot;Truitt means the world to me,&uot; Lawrence’s Catherine Outten said. &uot;He was always encouraging me to do better and didn’t think twice about yelling at me when I did something wrong. I really appreciate that and I will always remember what he meant to me and what he did for our team.&uot;

Rising Senior Jodi White called Johnston &uot;an inspirational leader in more ways than one.&uot;

Johnston’s leadership abilities helped the Lady Warriors in their accomplishments, but his abilities as a x and o guy didn’t escape his athletic director.

&uot;He worked very hard and gave excellent technical instruction,&uot; Quinn said. &uot;He was a brilliant strategist and game day coach. He is an all-around good coach.&uot;

During the 2005 campaign, the Lady Warriors won every game inside the Tarheel Independent Conference and lost just once the entire season to a NCISAA 1-A school.

The loss came to Faith Christian School in the second round of the state playoffs. They avenged that loss with a pair of victories over Faith in the 1-A finals including a 3-2 victory in the game that won the state title.

Johnston admitted he had tears rolling down his face when Faith Christian tied the state title rubber match at 2-all with two outs in the top of the seventh inning.

Half an inning later, he had tears streaming again as a shot off the bat of Ruth Stotesbury allowed Outten to score and gave the team their second state title.

&uot;It was because of the hard work Truitt demanded that we were able to repeat as champions,&uot; Quinn said. &uot;We’re looking forward to next year.&uot;

(The Roy Bond Award recognizes the Coach of the Year in all sports in the Roanoke-Chowan area. The award recognizes the coach who did the best job with the talent and conditions available in the three-county area. It is named in honor of the retired Bertie High School Football coach who won two state titles and was named Coach of the Year six times.)