Former Valencia High School softball coach Donna Lee and current Hart High School girls’ soccer coach Brett Croft have both been honored by multiple organizations recently, including by the California Interscholastic Federation.
Getting recognized for their hard work in their own backyard, as was the case at last week’s William S. Hart Union High School District governing board meeting, was the best honor yet, they both said.
“I would have never thought that would ever happen, not that I was looking for it or anything like that, but it’s just kind of funny, it really is,” Lee said. “You put so much hard work in and you don’t realize, when it’s all over, you look back and go, ‘Wow,’ and to be recognized for it is even more special.”
Lee led the Valencia softball program since its inception in 1994 before retiring after the 2022 season. During that time, the Vikings went 529-194 and finished as the top-ranked high school softball team in the nation in 2007. Lee was named the National High School Softball Coach of the Year by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association that year.
In October, Lee was inducted into the CIF Southern Section Hall of Fame.
“It has been an amazing career for coach Lee, and she was chosen by her peers to be honored in the CIF Southern Section Hall of Fame,” said Mark Crawford, director of human resources for the Hart district. “And tonight, we recognize her not only for that honor, but for all that she’s meant to the Valencia community and those that she coached.”
Croft led the Hart girls’ soccer team to three titles in the 2022-23 season: the Foothill League, the Southern Section and the Southern California Regional. The Indians went 19-5-2 last season, scoring 79 goals against just 13 allowed, and went undefeated in league play.
The Indians beat Harvard Westlake in the Southern Section Division 2 championship game at College of the Canyons in a downpour.
“It was a historic season,” Croft said. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into it. We had a really excellent group of players that were even better people off of the field. And I think that that kind of brought us together as a unit and took us through the ups and the downs of that season and ended up with the treble, which was awesome.”
Croft said that winning the section title in the pouring rain at COC was the most memorable moment for him.
“Not just pouring rain but like a torrential downpour,” Croft said. “For me, what was awesome about that game is both teams had to play in the same environment and I think our team just showed to be a little more mentally tough and battled through adversity and not complain about the weather, but figure out how to win.”
The CIF recently named Croft as the Coach of the Year, regardless of division, Crawford said. He is now up for the National Federation of High Schools Coach of the Year in girls’ soccer, with the final results set to be released later this month, Crawford said.
“All in all, it is probably one of the greatest soccer seasons this district has seen, girls or boys,” Crawford said.