Emily Crane liked what she heard three years ago as a freshman when she first met Troy's then-new softball coach Lance Richardson.

"When we first started talking after he took the job over, he told me that he thought we had enough talent to get to state within my four years," said Crane, the Trojans shortstop and offensive linchpin. "I was like, ‘Yeah, buddy.' That sounded good to me, and here we are."

Though new to Troy at the time, Richardson wasn't new to coaching high school softball. He had been an assistant and head coach at Clopton and at Timberland. As an assistant to Scott Harris at Timberland, Richardson was part of the 2003 team that won the Class 3 state title.

"Lance was just such a big part of that team," said Harris, now the athletics director at Francis Howell Central. "Lance is such a good coach and knows the game so well.

Richardson also coached Clopton to the final four, and, after succeeding Harris, he took Timberland back to the state finals.

"When he came in with me, it was not like he was ever an assistant," Harris said. "It was like two head coaches."

In his four years at Troy, Richardson is 98-18.

If his 100th victory at the school comes this season, it would be in a Class 4 state championship victory.

"I told some of the girls the first day I met them our goal was to get to our first final four," Richardson said. "We knew it was going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of effort, and the girls have done so."

When Troy plays Eureka at the Killian Sports Complex in Springfield at 10 a.m. Friday, Harris will be on hand to root for his former assistant coach -- and good friend.

"Lance is one of my best friends," Harris said. "I was in his wedding. He was in my wedding. His AD over there, Jason Smith, is one of our best friends. To watch Lance coach and to watch his girls' play reminds me of us coaching together all those years. I like going out and supporting him and watching his teams play."

For his part, Troy AD Jason Smith, who went to high school with Richardson in Highland, Mo., is thrilled for his former classmate, assistant coach and friend. 

"I am just so excited for (Richardson) and his family and their girls," Smith said. "It just means so much to me for our girls to have this opportunity to go to the final four."

Richardson said he picked up valuable lessons working with both Smith and Harris. He said his success at Clopton and Timberland had a lot to do with them. At Troy, he inherited nice talent, but he built his own program, a point of pride.

"Coming in here, I felt like this was ownership with me at the top," he said. "That's why this feels really good."