ECU Receives NFCA Coaching Staff-Of-The-Year Award
June 29, 2011
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Following a season in which the East Carolina softball team claimed its second-straight Conference USA Tournament title and NCAA Regional finals appearance, Pirate head coach Tracey Kee, associate head coach Natalie Kozlowski and graduate assistant coach Cristen Aona have been selected as the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Mideast Region Coaches-of-the-Year. It is the second consecutive regional honor for Kee and Kozlowski and the first for Aona, who played for the two from 2007-10.
The trio combined to lead ECU to a pair of NCAA Tournament victories for the second-straight campaign in addition to repeating as league tournament champions while posting a 41-22 record. The Pirates become the first C-USA program since DePaul in 2004-05, during its run of four-straight championships from 2002-05, to win consecutive post-season crowns. The 41 victories also enabled East Carolina to become the first league institution with three-straight campaigns of 40 wins or more since Houston from 2006-08 and only the fourth in the history of the league (USF/2003-05; DePaul/2000-03).
Kee and Kozlowski enjoyed this season's success despite losing seven seniors (six starters, including Aona) from the 2010 squad. The 2011 unit consisted of 10 freshmen, two sophomores, three juniors and two seniors. Since the 2004 league championship, no title winner has had more than five freshmen.
The NFCA award is the latest honor for Kee, who was selected as the 2005, 2009 and 2010 Conference USA Coach-of-the-Year. With a 1-0 win over UTEP April 22, she reached the 650-career victory plateau and concluded the season with 659 triumphs as the Pirate head coach.
Kozlowski also reached an East Carolina milestone this season, recording her 450th Pirate win April 23 with a 6-2 victory at UTEP.
This year, the coaching staff helped Toni Paisley earn her third-straight Conference USA Pitcher-of-the-Year award and second consecutive Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I Mideast All-Region First Team honor. Paisley was also named to the Capital One Academic All-District 3 Second Team and C-USA All-Academic squad.
During the 2011 season, Kee, Kozlowski and Aona guided Paisley to First-Team All-Conference USA honors, Sissy Jimenez, Suzanne Riggs and Jill Jelnick to C-USA's second team, and Jelnick, Jordan Lewis, Kristi Oshiro and Jasmine Robbins to the league's all-freshman squad. With four C-USA All-Freshman Team honorees, ECU tied Louisville in 2004 for the most selections by a program in a season in conference history.
The Pirates also placed five on the C-USA All-Tournament Team (Paisley, Jelnick, Lewis, Alex Fieldhouse and Priscilla Velasquez). Velasquez was named the most valuable player of the event after the three games in which she drove in seven total runs, including all four in the title victory against Tulsa May 14.
Clint Myers and his Arizona State assistants were recognized as the NFCA National Coaching Staff-of-the-Year following the Sun Devil's 60-6 season, which culminated in the program's second national championship.
2011 NFCA Regional Coaching Staffs-Of-The-Year