New division, new coach for softball

Getting to know a new team may be a challenging task, but doing that while simultaneously training them to enter a new division in the NCAA is a whole different ballpark. This is the challenge Niki Stansell will encounter as she steps up to the plate as the new softball coach at PNW.

Stansell’s previous experience includes coaching in Division II at Illinois-Springfield and coaching stops at Division III Illinois Wesleyan.

“I’m excited to have the honor of taking this talented group of girls to the next level,” Stansell said. “I hope that this year the team excels in the new division and gets far with a clean record to let others know that this team means business.”

Stansell said she has some work to do before the team is able to play on the field. She must first get to know the girls and their playing style, and then they will have to get ready for the style of a new coach.

“I’d like to think that the girls wouldn’t have a hard time picking up my style of coaching, but the transition from one coach to another is never easy,” Stansell said.

The transition will also include meeting 13 new, incoming players.

Stansell played shortstop at both Illinois Wesleyan and at the University of Georgia. She started her assistant coaching during one season at Illinois Wesleyan where she helped the team set their record of 41 season wins in a single season. She then followed that with assistant coaching at NCAA Division II Illinois-Springfield. There she led the team to a 3-season overall record of 81-71 and helped raise UIS defensive standings from the 125th ranking in the NCAA to 15th.

“She has great coaching experience as well as playing experience,” Rick Costello, PNW athletic director, said. “I have full faith that she will use this experience to lead this team in the right direction.”

Of the sports teams at PNW, the softball team has the second best overall GPA, which stands at a high 3.49.

“I look forward to seeing how she will help her players reach academic excellence,” Costello said. “I can’t wait to see those high numbers raise both on and off the field and watch those girls ‘hit it out of the park.’”