LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Head coach Kevin Blaskowski, associate head coach Christina Helland and volunteer assistant coach Ross Middleton of the national champion West Texas A&M softball program have been voted as the NFCA’s 2014 Division II National Coaching Staff of the Year the Association announced on Wednesday.
NFCA 2014 Division II Regional Coaching Staff of the Year winners included: Wayne State University (MI) (Midwest), Southeastern Oklahoma State University (Central), Long Island University Post (East), Dixie State University (West), Valdosta State University (South), West Texas A&M University (South Central), West Chester University of Pennsylvania (Atlantic) and Armstrong Atlantic State University (Southeast). Valdosta State, West Chester and Armstrong Atlantic were all repeat winners of regional accolades after picking up 2013 honors. For more info on these teams, please visit the bottom of this release.
After winning the regular-season title in the Lone Star Conference with a 23-4 league mark and entering NCAA tournament play as the top-ranked team in the country, West Texas A&M finished off its dream season in Salem, Va., by topping Valdosta State (3-2) to earn the program’s first NCAA Division II Softball Championship. The Lady Buffs won 60 games, becoming just the fourth team in NCAA history to win a title while also reaching the 60-win mark (Cal State Northridge-1985; Augustana-1991; North Dakota State-2000).
Having been hired to re-start West Texas A&M softball following a 24-year absence, Blaskowski has wasted little time in building the Lady Buff softball program into a perennial national title contender. In nine years at the helm, he has registered a 320-219 mark, recorded four NCAA tournament berths and possesses an overall record of 672-496 over 22 seasons. Of course, his hard work paid major dividends in 2014 as West Texas A&M made the school’s first-ever visit to the NCAA Division II Softball Championship finals count by taking home the program’s first national crown.
NFCA Division II Regional Coaching Staff of the Year winners this season were:
Midwest – Wayne State University (MI) – (46-12, 17-5 GLIAC) – Final Rank: No. 7 -- Head Coach: Gary Bryce; Assistant Coach: Pat Kent; Graduate Assistant Coach: Nicole Abel – Posted a 46-12 overall record, won its third consecutive Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament title and advanced all the way to the NCAA Division II Softball Championship. Once in Salem, Va., the Warriors lost to eventual national runner-up Valdosta State (8-5) and national semifinalist Southeastern Oklahoma State (2-0) to be eliminated.
Central – Southeastern Oklahoma State University -- (45-20, 28-11 GAC) – Final Rank: No. 4 -- Head Coach: Ron Faubion; Assistant Coach: Courtne St. Clair; Graduate Assistant Coach: Paige Priest – SEOSU earned the program’s second consecutive regular-season league title and having received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, got on a roll that eventually ended in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Softball Championship in Salem, Va. After dropping its opener against Dixie State (3-2), the Savage Storm topped both Wayne State (MI) (2-0) and Armstrong Atlantic (9-3) in the loser’s bracket before falling just short of a national final berth via a 5-3 loss to runner-up Valdosta State.
East – Long Island University Post – (50-11, 25-3 ECC) – Final Rank: No. 8 – Head Coach: Jamie Apicella; Assistant Coaches: Carla Campagna, Megan Butterworth – LIU Post registered a program single-season record 50 wins, swept both the East Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles and advanced to the NCAA Division II Softball Championship. In the national event, the Pioneers dropped consecutive decisions to eventual national champion West Texas A&M and West Chester.
West – Dixie State University – (51-9, 27-5 PacWest) – Final Rank: No. 3 – Head Coach: Randy Simkins; Assistant Coaches: Justin Buchanan, Doug Rogers, Nate Miller – In arguably the greatest season in Dixie State history, the Red Storm established a program record for single-season wins (51), registered a DSU record 27-game winning streak, won a second straight PacWest Conference crown and advanced all the way to the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Softball Championship before suffering a tough 2-1 elimination defeat to top-ranked and eventual national champion West Texas A&M.
South – Valdosta State University – (48-15, 16-9 GSC) – Final Rank: No. 2 – Head Coach: Thomas Macera; Graduate Assistant Coaches: Marti Littlefield, Colette Rollins – After entering the Gulf South Conference tournament as the second-seed, Valdosta State knocked off top-seeded Alabama-Huntsville (11-7) to earn its sixth-straight league title and reap a bid to NCAAs. The Blazers then rolled through regionals, topped GSC rival UAH two-games-to-one in super regional play and advanced all the way to the title game of the NCAA Division II Championship in Salem, Va., against No. 1 West Texas A&M before suffering a tough 3-2 loss to finish as national runner-up.
South Central – West Texas A&M University – (60-7, 23-4 Lone Star) – Final Rank: No. 1 – Head Coach: Kevin Blaskowski; Associate Head Coach: Christina Helland; Volunteer Assistant: Ross Middleton
Atlantic – West Chester University of Pennsylvania – (42-22, 19-9 PSAC) – Final Rank: No. 6 -- Head Coach: Diane Lokey; Assistant Coach: Margaret Kichler – It was a magical ride for West Chester in 2014 as the Golden Rams earned a PSAC East Division regular-season title, a 40-win season and the program’s first-ever berth in the NCAA Division II Softball Championship in Salem, Va. WCU went 1-2 at the national event with a win over LIU Post (6-2) and losses to eventual national semifinalist Dixie State (4-3) and Armstrong Atlantic (5-1).
Southeast – Armstrong Atlantic State University – (36-15, 14-6 PBC) – Final Rank: No. 5 -- Head Coach: Ted Evans; Assistant Coach: Shelly Tait – After finishing second to Peach Belt Conference rival North Georgia for the league regular-season crown, Armstrong Atlantic knocked off UNG in super regional action (two-games-to-one) to advance to its second consecutive NCAA Division II Softball Championship in Salem, Va. Once there, the Pirates topped West Chester (5-1) before being eliminated via losses to eventual national champion West Texas A&M (6-5) and Southeastern Oklahoma State (9-3).