DALEVILLE — When Ashley Fouch took the girls basketball coaching job at Daleville prior to the 2017-18 season, hers was one of a small handful of applications for the position.
When she announced earlier this week she was leaving the Broncos to accept the same position at Whiteland High School, Daleville athletic director Ben Wissel said he had double-digit inquiries about the job within 24 hours.
That, as much as any of the wins she accumulated, is a statement about how Fouch improved and grew the program during her tenure, which included the program’s first sectional championship earlier this year.
“She’s done some things in leaving the program in a good place and in development of the program in general,” Wissel said. “She did some things that were more program-based as far as the youth leagues. She got the ball rolling on a lot of things that people involved in scholastic sports would know that needs to be done. She had the initiative to get that stuff going at Daleville. Overall, she left things in a better place.”
After a 7-15 first season, Fouch and her squad posted a 13-10 mark — the program’s first winning season since 2013 — and came within seconds of the program’s first sectional championship in Year 2.
She said those first two teams made what was to come possible.
“Those seniors my first year, they built the foundation for me,” Fouch said. “The progress that Daleville made in the three years, it’s hard to put into words. That team just did all the steps to make themselves known and respected in (Delaware) County. It’s hard for me to talk about because I’m still so emotional about it. They were special kids because they never gave up on a game, whether they were down by 20, you could never count them out.”
After dropping five of their first six games in 2019-20, the Broncos heated up late in the season and broke through with that sectional championship. They got revenge on Cowan with a 25-point rout before holding off the host Tri-Central Trojans by nine. Fouch said the 2019 loss was the launching pad for the title, something that surprised the Whiteland interview committee.
“That two-point loss was the best thing that ever happened to us,” she said. “I talked about the sectional championship win a lot during the interviews. They asked me, ‘What was your most memorable moment in coaching so far, but we think we already know.’ I know they were thinking it would be the title, but … my second year, when we lost by two, it was the best thing. In the moment, it was raw, it was real, and it hurt, but at the same time, that’s when I knew that whole team got it. That’s when they found out how hard it was to lose.”
Coaches are like athletes, they want to test themselves against the best. Fouch will now have that opportunity at Whiteland, a Class 4A school that is part of the Mid-State Conference along with Mooresville, Martinsville and Plainfield. The Warriors were 11-14 last season, and their lone sectional title was in 2007, but they graduated just three players, and their top scorer (Gracie McCullars, 12 points per game) will be back.
“We have a lot of juniors coming back,” Fouch said. “That’s really exciting for me.”
Wissel hopes to have a coach in place before athletic activities can resume in July but is more focused on finding the right person rather than expediency.
Whoever does succeed Fouch will inherit a defending sectional champion that returns four starters, including senior Heather Pautler and junior Audrey Voss.
“She did not leave Daleville girls basketball high and dry. That’s for sure,” Wissel said.
“Whoever comes in will have to understand that this group of kids is really resilient,” Fouch said. “They know how to play, and they also will never lay down and die during a game. They know what grit is.”
“Daleville wishes her luck. She served Daleville well and served the community,” Wissel said. “She brought some excitement to the community.”
“This is a bittersweet move, but I’m excited to see what my future holds for me,” Fouch said.