LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For the third straight season, Tufts University has been voted the NFCA Division III National Coaching Staff of the Year by its fellow member coaches.
The Jumbos, under head coach Cheryl Milligan, associate head coach Lauren Ebstein and assistant coaches Jo Clair and Bri Strecker, became the first Division III team to win three straight NCAA softball championships last month, and finished the season a perfect 51-0 to close the year on a Division III-record 53-game win streak. Tufts hasn’t lost since falling 2-1 to Salisbury in the opening game of the NCAA Championship Series on May 26, 2014.
In the three NCAA divisions, only UCLA (1988-90) in Division I and Cal State Northridge (1983-85) and Cal State Bakersfield (1988-90) in Division II have won three straight national championships.
Tufts previously earned New England Regional Coaching Staff of the Year honors for the fourth consecutive year.
NFCA Regional Coaching Staffs of the Year are selected by member head coaches in the eight NCAA regions. Regional winners advance to consideration for National Coaching Staff of the Year — along with the national champion coaching staff, if not already a regional winner — for a combined vote by all member head coaches in the division.
The other seven NFCA Regional Coaching Staff of the Year winners are:
The Sea Gulls, led by head coach Margie Knight and assistant coaches Sarah Alpaugh, Kate Garland, Harley Hill, John Krahling, Keri Lombardo, Teri Sharpless and Tom Stitcher, went 37-8 and tied for third at the NCAA Championship. It is the third straight regional coaching staff honor for Salisbury. The Sea Gulls finished the year ranked third in the NFCA Division III Top 25 poll.
Under head coach Erica Hanrahan and assistants Bob England and Jamie Mueller, the Tigers compiled a 36-16 record and finished tied for fifth for the fourth time at the NCAA Championship. DePauw earned the fourth-best win total in program history, finished first in the NCAA in stolen bases (134) and attempts (160) and completed the season ranked seventh nationally.
Head coach Margie Acker, assistant coaches Nicole Scarillo and Chrissy Yard and student assistant Kelly Moorehead guided the Cougars to a 31-15-1 mark and a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championship. Kean ended the year ranked sixth nationally.
The Spartans, under head coach Mike McKenzie, assistant coaches Taylor Reeves and Laura Starkey and graduate assistant Tristan Wilcox went 37-8 and lost to Central College in the NCAA Pella Regional after winning both the North Athletics Collegiate Conference regular season (22-0) and tournament (3-0) championships. Aurora finished the season ranked 23rd.
Gustavus Adolphus College
Led by head coach Jeff Annis and assistant coaches Jodi Lunz, Kyhl Thomson and Mark Wiest, the Gusties went 34-16 and won the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship for the first time in school history, dethroning five-time reigning titlist in the final. However, like Aurora, Gustavus was eliminated by host Central in the NCAA Pella Regional. The Gusties ranked 21st in the final NFCA poll.
It was a season of firsts for head coach Gino Olivieri, assistant coach Ralph Messura and graduate assistants Nicole Pagano and Becky Zill. The Saxons scored a school-record 40 wins to notch their best-ever finish (ninth) in the NFCA poll. Alfred also made its first trip to the NCAA Championship after going 13-1 to win its first Empire 8 regular-season title, winning its first Empire 8 tournament crown and capturing Regional and Super Regional titles.
University of Texas-Tyler
Texas-Tyler had its historic season stopped by Tufts in the best-of-three NCAA Championship Series. Head coach Mike Reed and assistant coaches Christy Gipson, Coby Gipson, Michelle Jones and Whitney Wyly guided the Patriots to 50 victories, the second-best season total in Division III history. Texas-Tyler beat longtime rival East Texas Baptist in the American Southwest Conference and NCAA Tyler Regional championships and then swept Emory in the Super Regionals. The Patriots’ only losses all season were to East Texas Baptist (three losses) and to Tufts (twice) and finished ranked No. 2 nationally.