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Monday, September 22, 2014

Ole Miss tabs next softball coach

BLOG: A little over two months after the process began Ole Miss has hired Windy Thees as its next softball coach.

Thees, who spent the last six seasons at Memphis, replaces Missy Dickerson.

Last season Thees’ Lady Tiger posted a 36-14 overall record and went 1-2 in the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Regional.

After coming off of a disappointing season in which the Lady Rebels went 14-39, the Ole Miss administration was looking for a coach who could turn the program around.

“What jumps off the page about her is her ability to build a program,” said Ole Miss Senior Executive Associate Athletics Director John Hartwell, who was in charge of the search committee. “Literally, she’s been at Memphis for six years and started a program from scratch there.”

In addition to defeating Chattanooga in the NCAA Tournament, Memphis also had several notable regular-season wins over No. 21 Ohio State, Kentucky, No. 16 Stanford and a three-game sweep of Southern Miss.

Below is Ole Miss’ official release:

Windy Thees, who started the Memphis softball program and build the Tigers into an NCAA Tournament team, has been named as the head softball coach at Ole Miss, Athletics Director Pete Boone announced Thursday.After starting the Tiger program from scratch in 2005, Thees led her squad to the school’s best season in 2011 with a 36-14 record and the program’s first berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers finished fourth in Conference USA in 2011 with a 15-7 mark in league play, which was the best conference record in school history. In non-conference play, Memphis knocked off eventual NCAA Tournament teams Kentucky and Stanford and reeled off a school-record 10-game winning streak.

“We are very excited to have Windy lead our softball program,” said Ole Miss Senior Executive Associate Athletics Director John Hartwell. “She brings a wealth of experience as a coach and player at the highest levels. We conducted a thorough nationwide search and spoke to many experts in the collegiate softball world. Windy rose to the top of our list due to her success building in two programs and her reputation as a recruiter and developer of talent.”

Under Thees’ tutelage, Heather Mott earned first-team All-C-USA and second-team NFCA All-Region honors in 2011, while Ashleigh King was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team.  In her seven seasons at Memphis, Thees’ players have earned nine all-conference awards, eight all-conference freshman team selections and three NFCA All-South Region selections. In 2010, Lelani Barnardino and Vanessa Walle earned second team All-C-USA honors and Carly Hummel was named to the all-conference freshman team.

In the short six-year history of the Memphis softball program, Thees compiled a 184-154 (.544) overall record and guided the team to the Conference USA Championship Tournament each of the last five years.

Thees tutored the Tiger pitching staff to several single-season pitching records in 2011, including wins (36), ERA (1.81), fewest hits allowed (231), fewest runs allowed (116) and fewest earned runs allowed (86), while sophomore hurler Carly Hummel tossed three no-hitters. At the plate, Jessica Phillips set the single-season home run record with 15 long balls.

Thees’ players have also found success in the classroom with all 15 of her seniors earning their diploma. This season senior pitcher Janelle Valle became the program’s first Capital One Academic All-American after she earned second-team honors from CoSIDA. During her tenure, the Tigers have earned five Capital One All-District selections, 15 NFCA Scholar Athlete selections and six C-USA All-Academic team selections.

The softball program has twice produced the U of M’s nominee for the NCAA Woman of the Year award. Former volleyball and softball letterwinner Melissa Nance was the 2008 Memphis nominee and former pitching standout Jenna Kubesch was nominated in 2007. Kubesch and Valle have also earned one of 12 C-USA Postgraduate Scholarships. Mott also earned the C-USA Spirit of Service Award in 2011.

Thees helped Memphis improve its win total by 29 percent in 2007, while losing one game fewer than its inaugural season totals in 2006. The Tigers’ power numbers also saw an increase last season with the team finishing fourth in the league in home runs with 47, 14 more than the previous season and a 33 percent increase.

In 2006, Thees brought in a squad of newcomers and finished above .500 with a 28-26 overall record. The Tigers earned a 19-0 victory in its inaugural debut against Grambling State and went on to a 5-1 start. Narrowly missing one of the six spots in the Conference USA Championship, Memphis finished seventh in the nine-team conference with a 10-13 record.

Thees came to Memphis from Georgia College & State University where she had been the head softball coach and SWA since the fall of 1999. She led the Division II school, located in Milledgeville, Ga., to a runner-up finish in the 2003 Division II National Championship. Her teams set nearly every pitching, defensive and offensive record at GCSU during her five years as head coach, and in doing so, helped Thees compile a record of 163-92 (.639).

During the 2003 season, Thees was named the Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year, the South Atlantic Region Coach of the Year and the Georgia Collegiate Coach of the Year. Thees’ student-athletes have also excelled in the classroom as her team posted better than a 3.0 grade point average in each semester during her last four years at GCSU with nearly a 100 percent graduation rate. Following her team’s 2003 season, Thees was selected as a member of the coaching staff of the Russian national softball team and helped lead the team to a silver medal in the European Championships, the highest-ever finish for Russia in an international softball event.

Prior to her tenure at GCSU, Thees served as an assistant softball coach and wellness coordinator at Lake City Community College in Lake City, Fla., from 1998-99. LCCC was ranked No. 1 in the national poll during both the 1998 and 1999 seasons and placed second at the JUCO National Championships in 1999.

Thees was a four-year starter at both catcher and second base at Florida State from 1993-97. She helped lead the Seminoles to three ACC Championships and made the All-ACC Tournament Team twice, including once as a freshman. Thees was voted the team’s Most Inspirational Player all four seasons, and served as a team captain her senior year in 1997. She earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing and multinational business from FSU in 1997 and also holds her master’s degree in business administration from GCSU, which she earned in 2002.

A native of Mesa, Ariz., Thees and her husband Michael have twin daughters, Megan Jo and Alexandria.

It was announced on May 9 that Dickerson’s contract would not be renewed. Dickerson was 140-193 as Ole Miss’ head coach.

Check Friday’s edition of the EAGLE for more on Ole Miss’ latest head coach. (June 30, 2011)

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