It is only fitting that our final team in the D2 Revue was the final team standing in Denver, Colorado back in May. We of course are referring to the defending National Champion North Alabama Lions. UNA enters the season as the preseason #1 team in the NFCA Division II Poll and are one of the heavy favorites to make it Salem, Virginia for the 2017 Division 2 WCWS. We had the honor to chat with head coach Ashley Cozart about her team heading into the 2017 season
- What it was like winning it all last year
- Where she was when she was announced to the St. Leo Hall of Fame
- How moving to Division I and the Atlantic Sun will impact the program
- Playing in the Gulf South Conference prepared UNA for their postseason run
- The biggest difference in being the hunted from being the hunters
The Coaching Staff:
Entering her fourth year as head coach, Ashley Cozart has quickly established herself as one of the top coaches in all of Division II. In her three years at the helm, she has guided the Lions to the postseason each year and has recorded a 136-39. She has coached 15 All-Gulf South Conference (GSC) selections, 12 All-South Region picks, and 4 All-Americans (all in 2016) during her tenure. During her seven overall seasons as a coach both at UNA and NAIA program Lindsay Wilson College, Coach Cozart is a sparkling 327-84. She and assistant coach Whitney Hawkins were named the 2016 NFCA Coaching Staff of the Year. This season, they will have two familiar faces serving as student assistants in Brooklyn Clark and Courtney Shields.
About Last Season:
From their surprising 12-2 victory versus North Georgia to start the year to their dominant run through the Gulf South Conference, 2016 was truly the year of the North Alabama Lions. They started the season 11-0 and didn’t look back as they climbed quickly to the #1 ranking in the NFCA polls by the middle of the season. Gulf South Conference play looked easy (which is isn’t) as they went a combined 33-3 in conference games as they won both the regular season and tournament championships. They were the #1 seed in the South Region which meant they got to stay home in front of their sold out fan base at UNA Softball Stadium. They used that crowd and some clutch hitting to advance to the Super Regionals where they had to face Rollins College for the third straight season. After winning game 1, UNA trailed by 2 runs with three outs to go. The record setting crowd rallied the Lions to a tie and eventual win in extra innings to advance to Denver where they knocked off Humbolt State in three to win their first NCAA Softball Championship.
North Alabama might have the best 1-2 combination in Division 2 in 2017 with senior hurlers Hilary Carpenter and Raven Cole Last season, they combined to go 58-6 and led a staff that was near the top of the Gulf South Conference in many statistical categories. Carpenter already holds single-season and career records for wins as well as innings pitched. She racked up a school-record 33 victories in 2016 en route to being named first team All-GSC for the third straight season. She enters her senior season on pace to break the career record for strikeouts, games started (already tied), and complete games.
Cole transferred in from LSU-Eunice in 2016 and was just as dominant as her teammate Carpenter. Raven went 25-3 with a 2.24 ERA which also garnered her first team All-Gulf South Conference Honors. She was the only pitcher to finish conference play with a perfect record (14-0, 2.10 ERA in GSC action) and threw a pair of no-hitters versus Stillman and Mississippi College
Did You Know: Prior to Coach Cozart’s arrival in Florence in 2014, the Lions had made only made the NCAA Tournament twice (2006, 2013) and had not won the Gulf South Conference championship (regular season or postseason) since 1987.