Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Kristi Stefanoni earns 50th career win for UMass softball

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

As the Massachusetts softball team closed in on a three-game sweep of Atlantic 10 rival George Washington Sunday afternoon, coach Kristi Stefanoni was firmly focused on finishing the job in an important conference game.

When UMass star Meg Colleran struck out Colonials sophomore Morgan Rinehart, the Minutewomen clinched the sweep, but also delivered a milestone victory for their third-year head coach, the 50th win of Stefanoni’s young career at the helm in Amherst.

“It means a lot,” Stefanoni said in a postgame interview. “I didn’t think anyone would ever count my wins.”

Stefanoni played under UMass legend Elaine Sortino for four years from 2003 to 2006 and was hired right out of college as the director of operations for the Minutewomen. A year later, she became an assistant head coach under Sortino, a role she held for five years.

When Sortino died in 2013 after a long battle with cancer, Stefanoni was named associate, then interim head coach in the next two seasons. She was officially named head coach before the 2015 season, and credits all of her success to Sortino.

“My first thought after the game was to call my coach and thank her, but she’s not here anymore,” Stefanoni said. “I credit all of my success to her … She started this program from the ground up. This isn’t just 50 wins for me, it’s 50 wins for her and for UMass too.”

“She’s incredible,” assistant coach Kaitlin Inglesby said of Stefanoni. “She’s passionate about UMass softball and it’s so great to work with someone like that. She makes it fun to come to work every day.”

It took less than three years for Stefanoni to reach 50 wins, and assistant coach Victoria Hayward is already looking ahead at 100.

“No, not at all,” Hayward said, when asked if she was surprised at the rate Stefanoni got to 50 wins. “This is a program that can absolutely do that and be at 100 in less than two years.”

After having a day to reflect on everything, Stefanoni said she feels no different than she would with any other win.

“I feel normal,” Stefanoni said. “After a day to reflect, everyone says it’s a milestone and all I think about is three more wins in conference, three more wins for UMass.”

While Stefanoni was humble and reserved after the win, players and coaches in the softball community didn’t hold back on social media, where it was easy to find praise of Stefanoni.

“UMass softball is extremely proud of her and wouldn’t want anyone else to have her job,” Inglesby said. “She’s so much more than the 50 wins.”

Zander Manning can be reached at [email protected]

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