Savannah Huffstetler was hired recently to lead Denmark's softball program, replacing head coach David Smart, who guided the Danes through their first three seasons and into Georgia's highest classification.
Huffstetler is plenty familiar with Forsyth County; she played at Lambert from 2011-14 and was the Forsyth County News Player of the Year following her senior season with the Longhorns.
In fact, Huffstetler is one of three coaches who played softball at a Forsyth County school and returned to the county as a head coach, joining Leanne Brooks [South Forsyth] and Maci Fletcher [West Forsyth].
"It's exciting. It's definitely where I want to be," Huffstetler said. "You want to play with the big girls, so you go back to Forsyth County. Every single school you play is going to be a 7A school and your region games are going to be teams going to state, so it's exciting. I've been telling them if you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best. Lucky for us, we get to play the best on Tuesday and Thursday and Friday, then the following Monday and Wednesday. We do it all fall."
Denmark finished 14-13 last year in its Class 7A debut, one year after making its first playoff appearance.
Huffstetler expects the Danes to be competitive this fall with several promising players returning.
Senior Jessie DeNardo is among the top players in the county and hit .457 with seven home runs last year, while Jordan Williams [.429, 17 RBIs], Avery Callaway [.319, 11 runs] and Mary Kate Leonard [.417, 12 RBIs] impressed as freshmen.
"We have all this young talent and people like Jessie and Kiersten [Bell], and people that have been here, are doing a really good job of leading it," Huffstetler said. "As far as the camaraderie goes, I haven't had to do a dang thing. They are a family to a T, and it was so nice to walk into that. They're bffs, but then they'll hold each other accountable and there's no hard feelings. They're a family, no doubt, and it's been awesome to just kind of walk in an insert myself into that."
Huffstetler has experience with young programs. A four-year starter at Lambert, the school was in only its second year of existence when she was a freshman in 2011.
"It's exciting. We're only three years old. This is the first fully graduating class, you know, they started as freshmen and everything," Huffstetler said. "It's exciting, because we feel like there's just endless opportunity for us, endless things to build. We don't by any means have a lot of rebuilding to do because Coach Smart laid a great foundation to open the program up, but we feel like we can hit the ground running now. This is where I want to be. This is where I know my coaches want to be. We plan to be here a long time."
Huffstetler said Rick Martinez and Jennifer McClellan will serve as Denmark's assistant coaches.
"I was really lucky to have people that just love to coach and just want to come out and coach," Huffstetler said. "They don't necessarily work for the school. They just love softball. That's another thing we've been telling the girls: nobody's out here for the fame and the glory and the money, obviously. You've got three people who are out here who love coaching who just freaking love softball. If you just buy in, we're going to have a good time."
The Georgia High School Association lists Aug. 2 as the earliest date softball teams can practice. The season officially begins Aug. 5.