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Head coach Kyla Holas embarks on her 14th season at the helm of the Cougar softball program which she began constructing from scratch in 1999. In the program's 13 seasons, Houston has proven to be a mainstay at the top of the Conference USA standings on the way to national and regional prowess with 12 consecutive winning seasons, six NCAA Regional appearances (2004, 2007, 2008, 2011, 201 and 2013) and two NCAA Super Regional appearances (2008 and 2011).
"I can not believe we are at 14 years," Holas said. "This has truly been a labor of love. I am still honored everyday to be the coach of this program and thank every girl who decided to become a Cougar and help build this."
"Recruiting players who want to win championships has been the key to our success," Holas said. "It takes a very dedicated and disciplined person to fit into our program. We demand a lot from them in the details category. The girls on this team know the stakes and rise every day to meet the challenge."
Under the direction of Holas, Houston has become a successful program that has posted a winning record each season since the inaugural year. At the conclusion of 2013, the Cougars have advanced to the NCAA postseason three-straight seasons and five of the last seven years.
Since coming to Houston, Holas has worked endlessly to build a program focused on winning with high academic standards, something that is paramount to the student-athletes on the Cougar squad. The academic standards Holas has set for her team have also been a staple of the program and have only risen higher, along with the team GPA. Houston has demonstrated this in recent years by repeating as the C-USA Sport Academic Award (2012 and 2013) by posting the highest team GPA of any softball team in the conference. Every member of the team during 2012-13 season earbed C-USA Honor Roll status while the team posted a 3.53 GPA during the year.
The program under Holas' direction emerged as one of the top programs in Conference USA as she holds the most wins in the conference's history (475). The Cougars are three-time regular season champions (2007, 2008, 2011) and were the Conference USA Tournament champions in 2007. They became only the second team in conference history to sweep both titles in a season. Houston will look to continue that success in 2013-14 when they compete in the American Athletic Conference.
To get to the top, Holas doesn't let anything get overlooked. Her dynamic personality, work ethic and past accomplishments as a player and coach make the program's sky-high outlook seem very realistic.
"Success comes by being obsessive about details," Holas said. "The little things are what separates the All-Americans from everyone else."
Houston has appeared in six NCAA regional tournaments and twice advanced to the NCAA Super Regional. After starting the program only three seasons earlier, the Cougars made it to their first post-season play in 2004. They would taste their first victory in NCAA play with a win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi while dropping games to No. 17 Illinois and Seton Hall.
Houston returned to the post-season party in 2007, this time they won their first two games against No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 7/8 Texas A&M. The Aggies would rally around their home field seed advantage as they took the next two games to eliminate the Cougars post-season dreams.
The Cougars last two post-season appearances would prove to be the most successful as Houston won their regional bracket to advance to the Super Regionals.
In 2008, Houston was host for the NCAA regional and Super Regional tournaments. The Cougars swept the competition in the regional by posting three wins over Delaware State and No. 25 Washington. The Cougars would split the first two games with Louisiana-Lafayette in the Super Regional before dropping the rubber match.
The 2011 season saw Houston's second sweep of an NCAA Regional as Houston posted wins over Louisiana-Lafayette, No. 3 Texas and clinching the bid with another victory over the Cajuns. Houston advanced to the Stillwater Super Regional where they fell to Oklahoma State in a three-game series.
Houston made it seven straight NCAA Regional wins in a row in 2012 with an opening-game victory over Auburn at the Austin Region. The Cougars dropped their next two games to Texas and Northwestern.
Houston posted a 1-2 record in their third-straight NCAA appearance in 2013. The Cougars defeated Army 7-5 while falling to South Carolina and Texas in their third-straight Austin Regional series.
The Cougars advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the third consecutive year and finished their last season in Conference USA with runner up finishes during the regular season and at the C-USA Championships.
In the classroom, the Cougars earned the C-USA Sport Academic Award given to the program with the highest team GPA (3.53) for each sport. It was the second-straight year UH captured that distinction.
C-USA Preseason Player of the Year, Haley Outon, would prove the voters accurate as she slugged her way to the C-USA Player of the Year award. Outon led the league in home runs, RBI, slugging and walks. Some of her closest competition for the award came from teammate Holly Anderson as the senior finished second in home runs, RBI, batting averagem and doubles among the league. They both landed on the NFCA All-Region team joining with freshman Katie St. Pierre to give the Cougars multiple NFCA selections for the third straight year.
2012Houston went 35-24 and 15-9 in C-USA ball and capped the season with a trip to the NCAA Regional for the second straight year.
The Cougars set a school record for stolen bases in a season with 111 to rank No. 10 in the NCAA and also were No. 16 in team batting average.
Haley Outon tied an NCAA record with home runs in six straight games as the sophomore catcher also set the single-season school record for home runs (22) and RBIs (64) in a season. She was named Third Team All-American for her production, the fourth Cougar under Holas to achieve All American honors.
Outon, Holly Anderson and Melissa Gregson were named to the Conference USA First Team while Jaime Edwards claimed All-Freshman Team honors and Jennifer Klinkert earned Second Team accolades.
The 2012 season saw Houston ranked in the preseason for the first time and the Cougars climbed up to No. 17 several weeks into the year.
Houston finished the season with a 44-18 record and a 19-5 mark in C-USA action en route to sharing the C-USA regular season championship with Tulsa. The 44 wins accumulated were the second-most victories in program history.
The Houston pitching staff finished the season leading the NCAA in team ERA (1.35). Senior Amanda Crabtree finished the season as the NCAA leader in strikeouts per seven innings (12.0) and No. 2 in ERA. Crabtree tossed three no-hitters struck out 336 batters - the most in program history in a single season. Senior Donna Bourgeois would be named C-USA Newcomer of the Year as she formed a lethal 1-2 punch with Crabtree.
The Houston hitters belted 67 homeruns as a team - the second most in school history (73, 2008). Melissa Gregson, C-USA Player of the Year, hit 16 of those homers.
Gregson (OF), Holly Anderson (IF) were named to the First Team All-Conference team while Brooke Lathan (IF) Bourgois and Crabtree were Second Team selections.
The twins, Diedre and Haley Outon, were named to the conference's All-Freshman squad.
Houston peaked at No. 21 in the RPI projections after building a solid resume using the intense strength of schedule that Holas is known for building. Houston scored 13 victories against the nation's top-25 and teams receiving votes, including Oklahoma State, BYU, Fresno State, Texas A&M and two games against LSU, Tulsa and Baylor. Houston spent three weeks of the season on the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll and spent five more weeks receiving votes on the poll.
The Cougars enjoyed a great season but at the end of the year, they were looking down the barrel as they would need six-straight wins to claim a share of the title. Houston swept East Carolina on the road before posting three-consecutive shutouts at home to close out the series sweep over UCF and tie for the C-USA regular season title.
Houston fell in the C-USA Championship semifinals to eventual tournament champion East Carolina, in a narrow 1-0 decision.
2009In 2009, Jessica Valis received her fourth consecutive All-Conference USA First Team honor. Haley Valis, Katie Bush and Laurie Wagner joined the ranks on the All-Conference USA Second Team, and Melissa Gregson was named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team.
To go along with all the C-USA honors, three Cougars were also named All-Americans as announced by the NFCA. The trio included Shamblin, Wagner and Jessica Valis. They were the first in program history to be named All-Americans.
Three student-athletes were honored during the 2009 season, as Katie Bush became a four-time Academic Medal honoree, while Jennifer Klinkert and Baillie Lott picked up their second C-USA Academic Honor Roll selections.
Bush was honored with the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VI Second Team award, and the C-USA All-Academic Team for her excellence in the classroom. Bush was also a two-time NFCA Academic All-America Scholar (2007, 2008). Joining her for the 2008 C-USA All-Academic Team was Wagner.
2008In 2008, Holas posted a 54-11 record, making softball the only sport in Houston history to record more than 50 wins. The Cougars took home its second regular-season C-USA Championship title and advanced to the NCAA Regional and Super Regionals, which took place at Cougar Softball Field.
The Cougars went 3-0 at the Regional, defeating Delaware State 9-0, with a perfect game pitched by Angel Shamblin. UH beat Washington 2-0 in game two, and advanced to the Super Regionals with a 2-1 win over Washington. In the Super Regionals, the Cougars played Louisiana-Lafayette, splitting the first two games, but with just one win shy of the World Series, the Cougars fell short in the final game, with a 4-0 decision going to the Ragin' Cajuns.
Shamblin was named the 2008 C-USA Female Athlete of the Year, the first softball player to ever receive the honor and the fourth Cougar to be named Athlete of the Year.
Holas produced four All-Conference USA First Team players including, Jessica Valis, Klinkert, Laurie Wagner and Shamblin. Three Cougars were members of the All-Conference Second Team, including Nordstrom, Christa Raley and Katie Bush. Klinkert, the 2008 Freshman of the Year, was also a member of the All-Conference USA Freshman Team.
Shamblin, Wagner, Jessica Valis and Klinkert were also named to the NFCA All-South Region Team. Shamblin and Wagner earned All-South Region First Team honors, while Jessica Valis and Klinkert were named to the Second Team.
BEFORE HOUSTONHolas came to the Cougar program from the University of Florida, where she was responsible for developing the pitchers and catchers for three seasons. She guided the Gators through its inaugural season and through a tough Southeastern Conference schedule.
While at Florida, Holas was instrumental in the development of Chelsey Sakizzie, who was named the 1998 SEC Player of the Year in addition to Louisville Slugger All-America Third-Team honors. She coached five other players to SEC accolades.
Before going to Florida, Holas spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Northern Illinois. While working in DeKalb, Ill., Holas tutored the Husky pitchers and coordinated the academics for the team. She coached the 1996 Midwestern Collegiate Conference Player of the Year, pitcher Angie Zuspann, as the Huskies reached the NCAA Regionals for only the second time since 1988.
As a student-athlete
Holas racked up a career 104-20 record, in addition to compiling a .301 career batting average, en route to setting seven school records. Her .839 winning percentage is still in the Top 15 in NCAA record books. In 1999, Holas was inducted into the Louisiana-Lafayette Athletics Hall of Fame.
In 2011, Holas was named to her high school's (South Houston) Hall of Honor for her accomplishments as an athlete and a coach.