LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The eight teams that advanced to the finals of the NCAA Championship in Oklahoma City were voted the winners of the 2018 NFCA NCAA Division III Regional Coaching Staff of the Year honors, the Association revealed on Monday.
Back-to-back national champion Virginia Wesleyan University, runner-up Illinois Wesleyan University, third-place finishers Luther College and Ithaca College, fifth-place finishers University of Texas at Tyler and Case Western Reserve University, and seventh-place finishers Rowan University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology all claimed regional recognition.
The (55-3) Marlins again were the Atlantic Region representative, after breaking the Division III record for wins for the second straight season, en route to a repeat national championship. Virginia Wesleyan defeated Illinois Wesleyan, 3-1, last Tuesday in the finale of the best-of-three NCAA Championship Series on OGE Energy Field at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex.
Including last’s year’s run to its first national championship, Virginia Wesleyan has now won 61 of its last 64 games, and has been the unanimous top-ranked squad in Division III for 20 straight weeks under the leadership of head coach Brandon Elliott and assistant coaches Bobby Wills, Jim Quinn, Chris Smith and Jenna Wilson, plus student assistant Alexis Smith.
Led by head coach Josie Henry and assistants Shannel Blackshear, Ashley Parello, Hannah Mehrle, Andrea Nagy, Annie Wennerberg and Katelyn Gibson, Case Western advanced to its first NCAA Championship finals and qualified for the NCAA tournament for just the second time in school history — and the first time since 2001. The Spartans went 38-12 and finished the season ranked sixth nationally to earn Central Region recognition.
Kim Wilson’s Rowan staff was the choice of voters in the East Region, after the Profs completed another stellar year, going 39-13-1 and reaching the NCAA Championship for the second time in the past three seasons. It was Rowan’s sixth trip to the national finals in school history, and third under Wilson. This year, assistant coaches Ann Dailey, Krysti Maronski and Mike Medrick helped shepherd Rowan through an 11-2 record in the postseason prior to Oklahoma City.
Great Lakes Region honoree Illinois Wesleyan went 40-14-1 this season and advanced to its third straight NCAA Championship, and first championship series, scoring its best finish at the national tournament in school history. The Titans became the third athletic team in school history — joining women’s indoor track in 2016 and men’s golf in 2011 — to place second nationally.
This was the second straight season head coach Tiffany Prager and her staff are being recognized as NFCA regional honorees, and the third-straight year Illinois Wesleyan was honored. Prager’s staff includes Nikki Miller, Amanda Fazzari, Denise Prather, Bob Grimes, Lyle Day and Stephanie Alvarez-Rivera.
Under head coach Renae Hartl, associate head coach Teri Olson, and assistant coaches Tracy Hjelle, Miranda McCay and Kristen Winter, plus student assistants Bella Alverado and Steph Meyer, Luther collected the Midwest Region award after going 43-11 to set a school record for wins and finishing a program-best third in its fifth appearance at the NCAA Championship under Hartl.
The Norse were a remarkable 23-4 in neutral-site games, including three victories in Oklahoma City, and dealt national runner-up Illinois Wesleyan its lone loss at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex prior to the championship finals.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology was the New England Region representative for the second time in three years, after going a program-best 38-11-1 in 2018 and winning its first New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference championship in school history. Head coach Jen Williams’ squad set numerous statistical bests and pitcher Ravenne Nasser earned the team’s first NFCA All-America award this spring. Williams’ assistants are Brenna Morrissey, Sarah Goodman, Ellie Fodor and Colleen Eucogco.
In the Northeast, NFCA Hall of Famer Deb Pallozzi and her Ithaca staff of Rinae Olsen, Dan Raymond, Allie Yule and Tim Merritt led the Bombers to a 35-13 record and their 11th NCAA finals appearance in school history — and first since 2010. It was the team’s 10th appearance in the NCAA finals directed by Pallozzi.
Texas-Tyler made its fourth-straight trip to the NCAA Championship this season to again secure West Region honors for head coach Mike Reed, associate head coach Whitney Wyly, and assistants Leah Brown and Anthony Springer. The 2016 national champions went 44-5 and were ranked third in the NFCA Top 25 for most of the year.
The Patriots won 38 of their first 39 games this season, including their first seven and 32 straight after a March 2 loss in the finale of a three-game American Southwest Conference series at Mary-Hardin Baylor.
These eight coaching staffs move forward to consideration for NFCA NCAA Division III National Coaching Staff of the Year. Voting is open for member coaches through 9 p.m. ET on June 8, with the announcement of the winner on June 11.