LOUISVILLE, Ky. – University of North Georgia head coach Mike Davenport, assistant coach Sarah Phillips and graduate assistant Karlie Gillam of the Division II National Champion Nighthawks, were named the 2015 NFCA DII National Coaching Staff of the Year, announced on Tuesday.
It was a record-breaking season for UNG. Under the direction of Davenport and his staff, the Nighthawks brought back the school’s first-ever national championship to the Dahlonega campus. UNG posted a program-best 54-8 record and became just the third Peach Belt Conference softball program, first since 1996, to raise a softball national championship trophy.
The Nighthawks road to the title started smoothly with five straight victories through regionals and super regionals. However, UNG’s national championship opener did not go as planned as it had to immediately fight from the loser’s bracket. After being no-hit by Indianapolis in the opener, the Nighthawks reeled off five-straight elimination game wins, culminating with a 5-0 victory over Dixie State in the national title game. Along the way, UNG’s victories included an extra-inning nailbiter versus St. Mary’s (2-1 in 8 innings), a run-rule win over Adelphi (8-0) and two against Shorter (8-2 / 7-5).
Davenport, who picked up his 600th coaching victory at the start of 2015, is 651-192 after completing his 15th season at the helm of the Nighthawks. Davenport, Phillips and Gillam, were also recognized as the NFCA Southeast Region Coaching Staff of the Year, the fourth regional honor during Davenport’s tenure.
NFCA Division II Region Coaching Staffs of the Year
West – Dixie State
Final Rank: No. 2 – Overall: 52-8 – PacWest: 31-1
Head Coach: Randy Simkins
Assistant Coaches: Justin Buchanan, Doug Rogers, Dean Winningham
Volunteer Assistant Coach: Maggie Christianson
DII national runner-up after reaching national championship game for first time in program history… Rode 18-game winning streak in National Championship game before falling to North Georgia, 5-0… West Region No. 1 seed… Defeated California (Pa.) twice and Adelphi to earn spot in national title game… Recorded a season-long 24-game winning streak (Feb. 17-March 21)… PacWest Regular season champion (fourth in five years)… Program record 52 wins… PacWest record 31 wins and .969 winning percentage… Second straight NFCA Region CSOY Year award.
South – Shorter University
Final Rank: No. 3 – Overall Record: 43-17 | Gulf South: 20-12
Head Coach: Al Thomas
Assistant Coach: Jessie Homesley
Graduate Assistants: Jacki Castaneda, Christina Ezell, Rachel Glazebrook
Student Assistant: Brooke Crawford
In its first season of NCAA post-season eligibility, Shorter won the very tough Gulf South Tournament hosted by Valdosta State… The Lady Hawks won their first two games (Union and VSU), and after suffering a defeat to North Alabama, won the final three contests, including a pair against UNA to claim the conference title… Shorter earned the South Regional title with wins over then-No. 12 Alabama-Huntsville (3-1) and then-No. 2 and host Valdosta State (8-6 / 6-1)… Swept South Super Regional from Florida Tech (3-1 / 5-3)… Won first two games of NCAA Championship defeating St. Mary’s (4-2) and Indianapolis (5-0) before dropping their next two to eventual National Champion North Georgia (2-8 / 5-7).
Atlantic - California University of Pennsylvania
Final Rank: No. 4 | Overall Record: 43-13 | PSAC: 23-5
Head Coach: Rick Bertagnolli
Assistant Coach: Meg Lehman
DII National Championship semifinalist… Despite being injury plagued and limited to one bench player, Cal made a remarkable run through conference and national tournament winning 10 straight elimination games before falling to national runner-up Dixie State (6-10) in the semifinals. After falling to the Red Storm (0-1) in the opener, the Vulcans rallied from a 6-0 deficit to defeat Central Missouri (7-6 in 8 inn.) in first elimination game and then knocked off Indianapolis (2-1)… PSAC West Division regular season and PSAC Tournament championships… No. 1 seed in Atlantic Regional.
Midwest – Indianapolis
Final Rank: No. 5 | Overall Record: 48-15 | GLVC: 23-5
Head Coach: Melissa Frost
Assistant Coaches: Sara Kubuske, Alexa Alfaro, Cori Eckerle
No. 2 overall seed in the Midwest Region… Won four elimination games to reach GLVC Championship game before falling to then-No. 1 Missouri-St. Louis… Hosted and swept the Midwest Region with two wins over Trevecca Nazarene and another against then-No. 23 Ashland… After dropping the Midwest Super Regional opener at UMSL (1-2), the Greyhounds posted 6-0 and 7-3 victories over the top-ranked Triton to earn a trip to the DII National Championship… Behind a Morgan Foley no-hitter, Indianapolis edged eventual national champion, North Georgia 1-0 in the tournament opener… However a pair of defeats to national semifinalists Shorter and California (Pa.) ended their season.
South Central – St. Mary’s (Texas)
Final Rank: No. 6 | Overall Record: 48-12 | Heartland: 19-4
Head Coach: Donna Fields
Assistant Coach: Haley Long
Graduate Assistant: Maricela Bissaro
Co-regular season and Heartland Tournament champions… No. 2 seed in South Central Region… Recorded season-long 18-game winning streak (March 14 – April 11)… Captured 2015 DII NFCA Leadoff Classic (6-0)… Went 4-1 to win South Central Regional, including two wins over Metro State on the final day to secure title… Swept Tarleton State in South Central Super Regional… Dropped both games in NCAA National Championship to national semifinalist Shorter (2-4) and national champion North Georgia (1-2 in 8 inn.).
East – Adelphi University
Final Rank: No. 7 | Overall Record: 31-22 | NE-10: 31-22
Head Coach: Bree Nasti
Assistant Coach: Ophir Sadh
Director of Operations: Katie Andrews
Following a winless season-opening trip to California and an 0-11 start, Adelphi found its stride to post a 25-7 record the rest of the regular season… NE-10 tournament runner-up… As a four seed in the East Regional, the Panthers upset top-ranked Caldwell in a winner take all game (9-4) and then swept East No. 2 seed Southern New Hampshire on the road to earn their first trip to the DII National Championship… AU knocked off Central Region champ Central Missouri (4-1) before falling to national runner-up Dixie State (0-2) and national champion North Georgia (0-8).
Central – University of Central Missouri
Final Rank: No. 8 |Overall Record: 49-16 | MIAA: 21-5
Head Coach: Susan Anderson
Assistant Coach: Lauren Sigwing-Curtis
Graduate Assistant: Kelli Kurka
The Jennies came on strong at the end of the season winning 16-of-17 (two eight-game winning streaks)… UCM won three elimination games to win the MIAA tournament, which started its second eight-game winning streak into the national championship tournament… As the two seed, they would sweep through the Central Regional with wins over Missouri Western and Henderson State (twice)… They followed that by sweeping No. 1 Central Region seed Augustana in Sioux Falls, S.D. (6-0 & 2-1)… The Jennies succumbed to Adelphi (1-4) and national semifinalist California (Pa.) at the DII National Championship.