The Notre Dame softball coaches were recognized as the NFCA Mid-Atlantic Region Coaching Staff of the Year for the second time in three seasons after a sucessful 2016 campaign

Irish Softball Coaches Named Top NFCA Mid-Atlantic Region Coaching Staff

June 13, 2016

by Tony Jones

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the second time in three seasons, the University of Notre Dame softball coaching staff has been recognized for excellence in its region among members of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). The NFCA announced on Monday that the Irish coaches were once again selected as the NFCA Mid-Atlantic Region Coaching Staff of the Year, an award previously claimed by Notre Dame during its first official season in the Mid-Atlantic Region and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2014.

Head coach Deanna Gumpf (’11 honorary Notre Dame Monogram recipient) and associate coach Kris Ganeff (’99) claimed regional staff of the year recognition for the fourth time during their respective tenures with the Irish, to go along with the aforementioned 2014 NFCA Mid-Atlantic accolade and NFCA Mideast Region Coaching Staff of the Year honors in 2002 and 2004. Associate coach Lizzy Ristano (’01) earned her second regional coaching staff of the year citation at her alma mater (2014 Mid-Atlantic Region), while volunteer assistant coach Jamie Spitale and director of operations Kasey O’Connor (’12) were recognized as members of an NFCA regional staff of the year for the first time at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame made its 18th consecutive appearance, and earned its 21st overall bid in 28 seasons of varsity competition, in the NCAA Championship in 2016, reaching its 10th ever regional final and finishing the season with a 43-13 record at the NCAA Ann Arbor Regional. The Irish placed third in the ACC regular-season standings with a 13-7 league mark in their third campaign in the conference, ultimately reaching the final game of May’s ACC Championship tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina, against eventual Women’s College World Series qualifier Florida State.

Notre Dame spent over 120 days ranked in the national top 25 polls during the 2016 season, one of the longest stretches in program history in that regard. The Irish also surpassed the 40-win plateau for the 18th time in their history, a watermark attained in 12 of the last 15 seasons since Gumpf became the program’s head coach in 2002.

The 2016 Notre Dame offense established a team record with 346 RBI in 56 games, finishing with a team batting average over .340 for the third straight season and just the fourth time in 28 years. The Irish batted .347 to place fourth in NCAA Division I softball, their third national top six placement in average in as many years.

Co-captain Karley Wester earned her second career NFCA All-America nod by claiming third team All-America honors following a dynamic junior season that saw the Notre Dame center fielder establish Irish program marks for a single season with 91 hits, 68 runs scored and 46 stolen bases. No other Notre Dame player has ever reached the 90-hit or 40-steals plateau in a given season. A Top 10 Finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, Wester became Notre Dame’s career stolen bases leader (98 in 110 attempts) over her first three seasons, and is the active NCAA Division I leader with 256 hits entering her senior campaign.

Wester headlined seven Notre Dame NFCA Mid-Atlantic all-region representatives in 2016, which included fellow first team selections Micaela Arizmendi, Caitlyn Brooks, Melissa Rochford and Ali Wester, second team choice Morgan Reed and third team performer Bailey Bigler. The five Irish first teamers on the NFCA all-region squad equaled a program benchmark for a given season.

Arizmendi established a career-high with 63 RBI as a senior in 2016, the fourth-most runs batted in during a single season in program history. Arizmendi is one of two players to log 60 or more RBI in two different seasons (61 in 2014), and finished her career in second place on the all-time Irish RBI list with 191 runs batted in (Heather Johnson (’11), 214). She graduated with the second-highest slugging percentage (.660), and third-most home runs (38) and doubles (53) in team history.

One of 10 finalists for the Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year award in 2016, Ali Wester set a Notre Dame single-season freshman record with 72 singles, and tied the record (Gessica Hufnagle (’07), 2007) for the most successful sacrifice bunts in any Irish season with 22. Brooks logged the most RBI ever by a Notre Dame freshman with 55 runs batted in, while Rochford’s .497 on-base percentage set a Notre Dame freshman record.

Arizmendi became Notre Dame’s first three-time all-ACC first team selection (2014-16) by being named to the ACC’s top team in May, while Karley Wester, Morgan Reed and Ali Wester all received 2016 second team honors from the conference. Since joining the ACC in 2014 a total of 15 Notre Dame players have claimed all-ACC accolades, including 2015 ACC Player of the Year and current National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) star Emilee Koerner (’15) and 2014 ACC Freshman of the Year Karley Wester.

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Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball and men’s soccer programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.