Minnesota head softball coach Jessica Allister is in her fourth season at the helm of the Gophers program after posting another 30-win year in 2013. Allister has turned around a Gopher softball program that had hit hard times prior to her arrival, as in 2013 the fourth-year head coach led her team to its first NCAA Regional berth since 2003.
The Gophers went 36-19 during Allister's third season, their best record since a 37-21-1 showing in 2003. At 14-6 in the Big Ten, it was also Minnesota's first winning conference record since that same year. The Gophers finished third in the Big Ten and went on to play in the NCAA Regional for the first time in a decade.
The Jessica Allister era of Minnesota softball began on Aug. 10, 2010, when then-director of athletics Joel Maturi named the former Oregon assistant and All-America catcher from Stanford the sixth head coach in Minnesota history.
In her first year with the Gophers, Allister pushed her squad to improve every day by maintaining a strong work ethic on the playing field and in the classroom. The results couldn't be ignored, as the team nearly doubled its win total from the previous year and finished the 2011 campaign with a 31-24 overall record. Minnesota also improved its Big Ten win total from two in 2010 to nine in 2011. Allister's 15-game jump in the win column was only matched nationally by 11 other Division I schools.
In her second season, Allister drew the tall task of fielding a youthful team that featured 10 underclassmen. But to everyone's surprise except those involved with the program, her team flourished to become one of the Big Ten's most powerful offensive teams. The squad would post a 31-22 record, which included a mark of 9-5 against teams that qualified for NCAA Regional play. Arguably the highlight of the season was when the Gophers won a weekend series against Big Ten Champion and nationally-ranked Michigan, a feat that had not been accomplished by the Gophers since 1983. Before 2011 and 2012, the Gophers had not posted back-to-back 30-win seasons since 2003 and 2004.
Under Allister's guidance, the Gophers also have seen a number of student-athletes individually recognized by the Big Ten as well as national organizations for outstanding performance. Most recently in 2013, Kaitlyn Richardson was named to the NFCA All-America Third Team, becoming Minnesota's first All-American since 1998. Richardson, who batted .540, and pitcher Sara Moulton, the Big Ten leader in ERA, wins, strikeouts, starts and innings pitched, both made the NFCA All-Region team. The duo, along with Tyler Walker, was selected to the All-Big Ten First Team.
Moulton was also the 2011 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and has earned All-Big Ten honors three times. She has become one of the best pitchers in the NCAA. The 2014 senior has finished among the nation's best in strikeouts in each of the past three seasons. In 2011, Malisa Barnes earned All-Big Ten honors after leading Minnesota with a .433 batting average (.423 in conference play) - a figure that was 22nd in the country and third on Minnesota's single-season record list. Walker received All-Big Ten honors following the 2012 season by recording a team-best .380 batting average, which is the best batting average for a freshman in school history.
Academically, Allister's squads have featured 16 student-athletes who earned Academic All-Big Ten distinction. Kaitlyn Richardson earned Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-America Third Team status in 2013.
Prior to taking over the reins at Minnesota, Allister was one of the nation's top softball assistants -- helping three different programs to Super Regional appearances, with five trips in a six-year stretch. A proven developer of talent, Allister has groomed numerous student-athletes into elite softball players, including 10 NFCA All-Americans, and has consistently helped build nationally-ranked programs throughout her career.
The Nacogdoches, Texas native served as an assistant at Oregon in 2010 when she helped coach the Ducks to one of their best seasons in program history, including their first-ever Super Regional berth. While in Eugene, Allister assisted in all aspects of the softball program with an emphasis on hitting, catching and outfielders. Off the field, Allister acted as recruiting and travel coordinator, as well as serving as the program's primary contact for admissions, compliance and eligibility.
Prior to joining the staff at Oregon, Allister spent three years at her alma mater, Stanford University, where she was an assistant coach on a Cardinal staff that earned honors as the 2009 NFCA West Regional Coaching Staff of the Year. During her tenure in Palo Alto, Allister worked with Stanford's catchers and coached Rosey Neill to 2008 and 2009 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors. In addition to her role working with the team's catchers, Allister also served as Stanford's first base coach and assisted with hitting and recruiting. During her time as an assistant, Stanford earned three-straight NCAA tournament bids and made a pair of Super Regional appearances in 2008 and 2009.
Allister's first coaching position was at the University of Georgia, where she served as an assistant for the 2005 and 2006 seasons. During her stint with UGA, the team enjoyed two of its most successful seasons ever, earning two NCAA tournament berths and winning the 2005 SEC Championship. That same year, the Bulldogs led the SEC and ranked sixth nationally in batting (.317).
As a player, Allister put together one of Stanford's all-time great careers by earning All-America honors as a senior in 2004 and leading the Cardinal to a pair of Women's College World Series appearances (2001, 2004). A three-time All-Pac-10 honoree and a four-year starter, Allister owns Stanford's career records for games played (266) and fielding percentage (.994). She also ranks among the program's top 10 for career hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage and putouts. As a final accolade for her college career, Allister was named the 2004 Stanford Conference Female Athlete of the Year.
Allister graduated from Stanford in 2004 with a degree in economics and played professionally as a member of the New England Riptide of the National Pro Fastpitch League in 2004 and 2005.