Softball head coach Hanson resigns to lead Stanford’s squad

by Jessica Avitabile | 7/21/14 8:23pm

After a banner year for Big Green softball, both head coach Rachel Hanson and assistant coach Dorian Shaw will head to the West Coast to lead Stanford University’s team. Hanson’s four years as head coach culminated in the team’s 2014 Ivy League championship, which brought the team to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.

Hanson leaves the College with 88 wins and a .511 winning percentage, setting a Big Green record for wins by a single softball coach. Hanson led the team to two Ivy North Division wins for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. In 2014, the team set new single-season team records for the number of home runs and RBIs.

In addition to helping the team improve its mental and physical game, players said, Hanson also built a stronger team over the years through effective recruiting. While former head coach Christine Vogt had many contacts in the Northeast and recruited heavily from the region, Hanson — who served as head coach at the University of Dallas for five years following her graduation from Trinity University in Texas in 2005 — had contacts in Texas and other parts of the South, shortstop Katie McEachern ’16 said.

Seven players hailed from the South this past season, while two players from the South suited up for the Big Green in 2010, the year Hanson began as head coach.

Since 2010, the Big Green has fielded several additional players from California.

Because players in warmer places can practice year round, many of the best players come from the South, McEachern said, noting that there are great players everywhere.

Five players interviewed said they were said to see Hanson go but wished her the best at Stanford. Pitcher Morgan McCalmon ’16 said it is uncommon for coaches to make the jump from a program of Dartmouth’s size to a high-profile team like Stanford’s — a testament to Hanson’s talents as a coach.

The largest contributing factor to the team’s recent success, players said, is the change to team culture that Hanson brought. The team has become much closer, and they are now more invested in both the game and their teammates, several said.

Captain Kristen Rumley ’15 said the team now cares more about the outcomes of the games and prioritizes the sport, whereas three years ago they were not as invested in the final score.

“She took a team who lost more than they won three years ago and then turned the team into a winning program,” Rumley, the 2014 Ivy League pitcher of the year, said. “She left us with a great team moving forward.”

Part of the team’s cohesiveness comes from Hanson’s close relationship with the players.

Hanson cared for her players as people, outfielder Brianna Lohmann ’16 said.

McCalmon said she recalls when the softball team volunteered at the Special Olympics last winter. During some free time, Hanson found some lunch trays and went sledding with some players.

“She really brought the fun side of things to our team but was serious when she needed to be,” McCalmon said.

Kara Curosh ’14, who played all four years under Hanson and captained the 2014 squad, said the coach taught her leadership skills.

The players interviewed said they were confident about the team’s ability to move forward with a new coach, once one is selected.

McEachern said she thinks that after the Ivy League championship, there will likely be many high-level coaches looking to fill the position.

Rumley said that while there are bound to be minor concerns with the turnover, especially since both Hanson and Shaw are leaving, assistant coach Ali Hart, who will remain on the team, should be able to ease the transition.

“It will be our responsibility to sit down with the new coach and let him or her know how the program is,” Rumley said. “She’ll have new thoughts and ideas that might take us to an even better program.”

Hanson, athletics director Harry Sheehy, Hart and Shaw could not be reached by press time.