Family ties made the recruiting process easy for Sterlington senior softball standout Carson Lyon.
For Carson Lyon, the ULM softball team isn't like family, it is family.
Lyon, a senior for the Sterlington Lady Panthers, signed a letter-of-intent with the Warhawks in the SHS library Wednesday morning.
Though other schools showed interest, ULM had the inside track all along. The chance to play for her father, ULM head coach Corey Lyon, and with her sister, junior second baseman Cheyanne Lyon, was too appealing to pass up.
"One of the things I looked at with the other schools was I didn't want to play for anybody else," Lyon said. "I'm just excited to get to play for my dad. I've never played for him, so it's going to be an adjustment."
Although Carson has never played directly for coach Lyon, the two have spent countless hours together at the ballpark.
"I grew up in softball," Lyon said. "I was the little girl that dreamed of getting to play college ball."
Growing up around the ballpark has its advantages.
"Hitting is my strong point," Lyon said. "If I'm hitting, everything else seems to go easier. I grew up hearing, 'Go do extra work, go get in the cage.' I guess it's paying off."
Coach Lyon no longer has to tell Carson to put in extra work.
"Carson is one of my players that I can count on to be early for practice, leave late from practice, and ask for extra balls," Sterlington coach Jennifer Hickman said. "She has worked hard on and off the field. Carson has played travel ball and attended many camps to prepare her for a program like ULM. She hasn't experienced her hardest work yet. ULM demands a lot out of their athletes and with the competition level just to get playing time, Carson will have to work extremely hard and put in time outside of the 'normal' practice hours. I have no doubt that Carson will go the extra mile to make that happen. I have seen players grow and develop through the ULM program and Carson will fall right into that category.
"I am very proud of Carson and cannot wait to watch her grow and develop and do great things at the collegiate level."
As a coach's daughter, Lyon has relocated frequently over the years with stops in Wichita, Kansas, Paris, Texas and Magnolia, Arkansas before arriving in Sterlington. Joining the Lady Panthers as a freshman, Lyon is entering her fourth season as a starter. She now considers Sterlington home.
"Dad has been a coach all my life. He has coached at pretty much every level, so we have moved a few times," Lyon said. "I love Sterlington — everything about it."
Last season, Lyon helped the Lady Panthers to a Class 2A state runner-up finish. An All-District 2-2A honoree, she hit .269 with a .367 on base percentage, a .487 slugging percentage, three home runs, three triples, two doubles, 23 RBI and 19 runs scored.
Saving her best for the State Tournament, Lyon went 5-for-6 (.833) with an .875 on base percentage and eight RBIs in the three games.
With the Lady Panthers trailing district rival Mangham 3-0 in the state championship game, Lyon's two-run triple in the top of the seventh gave her team hope. Lyon went 3-for-3 in an eventual 3-2 loss.
Lyon also went 2-for-3 with a three-run home run and four RBIs in a 14-4 quarterfinal victory over Doyle.
Hickman is counting on more of the same from Lyon as a senior.
"Carson has been a mainstay in the lineup here for three years, so far," Hickman said. "She has played second base and every position in the outfield. In the outfield, Carson has the ability to make a game-changing play and has a very strong arm. I am expecting big things from Carson this year. I am looking for her to step up for us big time at the plate. I expect her to carry over her last at bat from last season. In the state championship game, Carson drills a two run triple down the right field line. Those are the type of hits I expect Carson to come through with this upcoming season."
As one of eight returning starters from a 23-13 team, Lyon has high hopes as the Lady Panthers move into Class 3A this season.
"I think we'll do good," Lyon said. "If we play the way we are supposed to, we'll be fine."
Lyon spent the early part of her high school career in the outfield before spending the majority of her time at second base last season. She signed with ULM as an outfielder.
A 3.9 student, Lyon plans to major in communications with a concentration in digital media.