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Utah's Fonoti has endured a carousel of coaches


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POSTED: Friday, February 13, 2009

Amy Hogue is only in her second season as head softball coach at Utah.

For senior Sharee Fonoti, two years seems like a lifetime.

The 2004 Kamehameha graduate has enjoyed an injury-free career at Utah. She's started every game, 171 and counting, and was an integral part of the 2006 squad that won the Mountain West Conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA regionals.

But she's had to do it under five different coaches. Mona Stevens recruited Fonoti to Utah, but abruptly resigned before the 2006 season. Marianne Bullis and Kyle Magnusson were interim coaches for Utah's NCAA tournament run in '06, but they were replaced by Angie Jacobs. Jacobs only lasted a season, one that Fonoti sat out, before Hogue took over.

“;Yeah, it's crazy,”; Fonoti said. “;I've played with a lot of different coaches my whole life, so it's not that different.

Other than that one year.”;

That year is the 2007 season, which Fonoti sat out because she didn't get along with one of the coaches. She thought about transferring, and inquired about coming home to finish her career at Hawaii. But before she made her decision, Jacobs resigned, opening the door for Fonoti to return to the softball team.

“;I kind of knew the coach would not last and I wanted to stay in Utah,”; Fonoti said. “;Fortunately, it worked out.”;

Despite the year away from the game, Fonoti picked up where she left off last season. She continued her streak of consecutive games started, and posted a career-best .236 batting average. Her power numbers fell off a little, but her .329 on-base percentage was 23 points higher than her previous best.

“;I wasn't rusty at all,”; Fonoti said. “;I practiced on my own with my best friend on the team, who sat out, too.”;

Hogue is the first coach to make it to a second season in four years and has brought some stability to a program in dire need of it.

She addressed Utah's pitching concerns in the offseason, bringing in two more to add depth to the rotation. That, along with a close-knit group of five seniors, is what Fonoti thinks will help the Utes try to get back to the NCAA tournament.

“;We only had like two pitchers last year and that's where we needed help,”; Fonoti said. “;We're a strong team and I think we can do a lot this year. We're looking to get back to regionals and hopefully the world series.”;

Before the postseason, there's a trip Fonoti has a vested interest in. Utah travels to Hawaii for the Spring Fling tournament next month.

Fonoti hasn't played in Hawaii in college and is relishing the opportunity to play against the Rainbow Wahine. Coming out of Kamehameha, her choice for college was basically between Utah and Hawaii, but ultimately she left for the mainland to experience something new.

“;I had been (in Hawaii) my entire life and needed to experience something outside of it,”; Fonoti said. “;Plus there's a lot of Polynesians in Utah, which is kind of like home, but not.”;

Fonoti got her degree in sports management last summer, and is using her extra classes to get an art and technology certificate to hopefully get into graphics and Web design.

“;Hopefully I'll be done by the end of the semester, but my main focus right now is softball.”;

Picked to finish fourth in the MWC preseason poll, the Utes opened the year by going 3-2 in the Desert Classic in Utah. The team is in Las Vegas for the Louisville Slugger Classic that begins today, and has three more tournaments before the road trip to Hawaii.

Conference play begins in early April and Fonoti hopes the season continues well into the end of May. The NCAA Women's College World Series is May 28 to June 3 in Oklahoma City.

“;I've been through a lot here,”; Fonoti said. “;It'd be a nice way to end things.”;