PHARR — Stephanie Lugo knows softball.

She began playing the game when she was 5. She found a love for the game and learned what it took to win on the diamond at the youth, high school and college levels.

Now, she is The Monitor’s All Area-Area Softball Coach of the Year.

“It’s been an honor to have been nominated,” said Lugo, a first-year head coach for PSJA North. “I never expected it.”

Lugo, 24, smashed her way onto the softball coaching scene when she took over the Raiders and quickly turned the program around.

“We were clutch when we needed to be, and every now and then we would get home runs and even inside-the-park home runs,” Lugo said.

It was as if she waved a magic bat and turned the Raiders into a winning program in her first year at the helm, leading the Raiders out of a 10-year, losing-record drought.

The Raiders not just turned around but did an immediate change, winning the 30-6A district title and clinching their first playoff berth in more than a decade.

Lugo’s team steamrolled past its opponents, going 22-12 on the season.

The Raiders ultimately lost to Lugo’s alma mater, the Harlingen South Hawks.

Lugo said it was tough taking on her own school in the playoffs her first year.

“Even though we lost, the girls kept their head up high and are ready for next season,” Lugo said.

Lugo, who doesn’t feel comfortable in the spotlight, prefers the attention to go to her players.

“It’s not all about me,” Lugo said. “I have been there and done that. It’s all about the girls and helping the team succeed.”

After Lugo was hired by the district as a physical education coach, she said she was surprised the opening for the head coach spot was open at PSJA North and it was offered to her. She thought after wrapping up her college ball career at Texas A&M-Kingsville that she was done with softball. That was not the case.

Her job on the softball diamond continues. She said she is grateful for the opportunity to head the Raiders softball team and pass on her knowledge of the game to her players.

She said she was also happy to see one of her girls go off to play at the college level. Raiders pitcher Heaven Lozano earned a spot on the Houston-Tillotson University softball team.

“I want to make sure the girls get recruited and get the opportunity I did,” Lugo said about her coaching style. “It’s wonderful, it’s a blessing and I am so glad that PSJA ISD took the chance on me and gave me the opportunity.”