Fertic brings SEC experience to SCHS softball team
The Sevier County Bearettes softball team has a new head coach, and she’s got some great credentials.
Two months after coach Dixon Brown quietly stepped down from the position after an extended interim stay, principal Toby Ward and athletic directors Bryan Atchley and Jonathan Brewer have announced Ashley Fertic will be the new face of the Purple and White softball program.
Fertic, 28, a former assistant coach and player at the University of Kentucky brings quite a resume despite never having coached a prep softball team.
A four-time member of the UK Dean’s List and the school’s Athletic Director Honor Roll while at Kentucky, Fertic was also a quality player for the Wildcats.
A member of UK’s Class of 2007, Fertic finished her career in the top 10 in several statistical categories. She ranked fifth all-time in program history with 12 career home runs, while finishing eighth all-time in triples and ninth in both RBI and doubles, according to her University of Kentucky biography.
A native of Valrico, Fla., Fertic served two seasons on the Kentucky bench after graduating — the first as a volunteer assistant and the second as an assistant coach. Since then she moved back to Florida, earned her teaching certificate, and taught and coached swimming in Hillsboro County.
“She played at the University of Kentucky and was an assistant coach,” SCHS co-AD Bryan Atchley said. “We needed a math teacher and we needed a softball coach, and she just kind of fell right into our laps, and we’re tickled to death. No head coaching, but if you played at the University of Kentucky in SEC softball (that’s something).”
Fertic moved to the Kodak area last year, but it was too late into the school year to secure a teaching position.
She inquired about the opening with the Bearettes recently.
“We had a few people that inquired (about the job),” Atchley said. “But honestly, out of sheer kind of luck, she had connections here in Sevier County and just basically approached Principal Ward. He interviewed her and was absolutely thrilled with her.”
Fertic’s qualifications are apparent.
While a student at UK, Fertic served as the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and was named the 2007 Miss Wildcat at Kentucky’s fifth annual Catspy Awards. That honor goes to one student-athlete for all-around excellence in athletics, academics, character, and service, according to the Wildcats’ website.
The new Bearettes coach was also named to the SEC Community Service team for two consecutive years and participated in the Cats Cultivating Character program.
Fertic was also a 2006 selection for the Frank G. Ham Society of Character. Being chosen to the society is the highest honor UK’s athletics department bestows on its student-athletes, according to the school. It is awarded to those who exemplify the term student-athlete.
University of Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson definitely believes the SCHS administration has made a great choice.
“I think she’s incredible,” Lawson said. “She’s brilliant and a great motivator of young people.
“She excels at just about every position on the field, and that versatility really helps her as a coach. She’s a tremendously hard worker, and she’s an exceptional role model.”
Fertic’s transition from player to coach at Kentucky under Lawson may have given her the best preparation possible for undertaking the SEC coaching job.
In Fertic’s senior season at Kentucky the team went 20-31 overall and just 4-24 in the SEC. Lawson took over the team next year and by her second season the Wildcats were in the NCAA Regionals.
“Our transition was made a lot easier when we got to Kentucky because Ashley was in the system, and she understood the SEC, which I was not familiar with at the time,” Lawson said. “It was in her second year of coaching that the program really took off. So the transition can happen pretty quickly.
“One of the secrets of turning a program around is to be organized, have a plan and know what you want to do with it, and she’s certainly one of those people that can do that,” Lawson said.
“I know that they have a lot of growth that they can do right now as a softball program,” Fertic said of her new team. “So I’m looking forward to making that happen.
“When I was a player at Kentucky we didn’t get to go to the SEC Tournament or the Regionals or any of that... but as a coach I got to. (Coach Lawson) turned that program around faster than anybody could have imagined. I wish I could have played for her, but in the long run I think it’s great for me now, because I learned a lot being able to watch her everyday coaching. If I can do what she did, I think everybody will want me to stick around (at SCHS).”