All-Bee Athletes

Coach of the year : Onesta Francis

School: Bullard





Years: Two, both at Bullard

Record: 25-4-1 last season; 44-9-3 overall

Chosen because: Directed Knights to the third Central Section title in school history – and first since 1985 – with a 3-0 victory over five-time defending champ Buchanan in the Division I final. Led the Knights on a run to the CIF Southern California Regional D-I final, where they lost 5-2 against No. 8 nationally ranked Torrey Pines-San Diego. Playoff run included a 3-2 conquest at national No. 2 San Clemente in the semifinals. Knights also won a second straight County/Metro Athletic Conference title under the watch of Francis, who is the son of Bullard boys coach and longtime former Clovis coach Igal Francis.

Background: Played at Edison High and Fresno City College before giving up soccer briefly to finish his education at Cal. After graduating with a degree in American Studies, Francis moved to England, where he played as an amateur for a short time while also launching his coaching career as an assistant at Thomas Danby College. After returning to America, Francis assisted at Fresno City College and under his father, Igal, with the Bullard boys team before taking over the girls program.

Turning point: After suffering their first three losses of the season at the Tri-Valley Classic – losing starting center midfielder Sarah Cissel to a knee injury in the process – Bullard bounced back with a 1-0 win over Florida state champion American Heritage to start an 18-game winning streak.

He said it: "Our No. 1 challenge was the psychological battle. None of our players had ever been out of the first round [of the playoffs]. We had to change the culture of Bullard soccer because they have been talented, but unlucky with results. ... I felt like we were going to win the championship when I saw the girls expecting that instead of hoping for it. Once they started talking to each other like ‘we better win Valley,' that's when I knew their perceptions had changed." – Onesta Francis

She said it: "He made it like a family atmosphere. Before every practice, he had a question of the day, like what was your most embarrassing moment, what's made you the happiest or something as simple as your favorite flavor of Gatorade. That was a great job on his part. You learn things you would never think about your teammates, or you learn you have something in common with them. That makes you respect them as a person and you can't respect people on the field until you respect them as a person." – Bullard senior forward Lynn Williams

Also considered: Caruthers' Jon Allen, who directed the Blue Raiders to a 25-5 overall record, an 8-0 mark while winning the West Sequoia League title, and a 2-1 victory over top-seeded Sierra for the Central Section Division V championship. His team outscored its opponents 87-24.

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