There were only a few opportunities which Leigh Anne Budd felt could take her away from Gunter. It had to be the right combination of factors that would be unable to pass up.
So after two seasons as the head softball coach at Gunter, Budd is moving right down the road to take over a brand-new program.
Prosper Rock Hill announced that Budd would be the program’s first head coach as the school is scheduled to open its doors this fall.
"I can tell you that I would not be leaving Gunter if it wasn’t what I felt is the right next step in my career. I love where I’m at. It’s hard to leave the kids, the parents and the coaches," Budd said. "It’s a very rare opportunity to open a school. That was the most exciting thing about it."
Rock Hill begins as a Class 5A program with an enrollment of 1,798 and was placed in District 10-5A alongside Sherman, Denison, The Colony, Lovejoy, McKinney North, Princeton and Wylie East in February’s realignment by the University Interscholastic League.
Rock Hill athletic director and head football coach Mark Humble, who was hired in early January, has a connection to Budd through their time at Frisco Lone Star, where she was an assistant coach before being hired by Gunter. Rock Hill is also just down the street from her home in Frisco.
Gunter was 4-7 overall and 1-1 in District 9-3A action, with a win over S&S and a loss to Ponder, when the season was suspended on March 16 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The UIL has yet to cancel the remaining games and gave May 4 as a potential date to return to action.
"They’re full engaged. They’re doing softball stuff, staying it shape," Budd said. "We still meet on Zoom. We’re still going to work our rear ends off. They want just one more game. You want to finish it out with the kids."
In her first season leading the Lady Tigers, Budd helped Gunter end a six-year playoff drought, go undefeated in District 9-3A and finish with a 26-7 overall record following an 11-3 loss against an undefeated Bells squad in the region quarterfinals.
Led by district MVP and honorable mention all-state pitcher Elizabeth Schroeter, the Lady Tigers posted 13 shutouts and allowed just one run in six other games. The offense was just as potent, scoring double digits 11 times and at least eight runs in 17 contests.
Gunter doubled its win total from 2018 and made the third round for just the third time, joining the 2012 and 2010 teams. Only the 2012 group did better in the playoffs by reaching the region semifinals.
The program also earned its first playoff victories since 2013 and had its most wins since a school-record 28 in 2012.
"A coach plays into it but it’s all about leadership," Budd said. "We had seniors that were such great leaders; they really wanted to have success."
Budd, who was a four-year starter, three-time all-Red River Athletic Conference selection, 2008 RRAC Defensive Player of the Year and second-team all-region pick at Northwood University, arrived at Gunter after spending two seasons as an assistant coach at Lone Star. She also had previous stops at St. Monica Catholic School in Dallas and Ursaline Academy of Dallas, where she was the head coach for the 2013 season.
Gunter will enter into a new district next season as the latest realignment put the Lady Tigers into District 11-3A with Bells, Blue Ridge, Bonham, Howe, Leonard, Pottsboro and Whitewright.
"My thing when I step into a program is leave it better than you find it," Budd said. "The future at Gunter is awesome. These kids are awesome. The next coach will have such a great group of kids to work with."