All season long the UCSB softball team struggled to find its hitting stroke. Now the Gauchos will spend the entire offseason searching for something else – a new head coach.
On Thursday, UCSB Athletic Director Gary Cunningham announced the resignation of Head Coach Liz Kelly. The announcement came after a dismal season, in which Santa Barbara finished 18-34, including 4-18 in the Big West.
“I would like to thank Liz for all of her hard work and contributions to the department,” Cunningham said in a press release. “I wish her luck with all of her future endeavors.”
Head Coach of the Gauchos since 1995, Kelly compiled a 165-210 record in her seven seasons at UCSB. Kelly’s best season came in 2000 when she guided Santa Barbara to a 30-21 record, 14-10 in the Big West.
“I have enjoyed the opportunity to be a member of the staff and feel especially honored to have been a peer with the other head coaches,” Kelly said in the press release. “I wish them all the continued success as I pursue my continued professional advancement.”
Kelly’s abrupt resignation came as a surprise to her team. Though Kelly has struggled to put a consistent winner on the field, her resignation caught many players on the team off-guard.
“I was really surprised [about Kelly’s resignation],” freshman pitcher Ashley Carroll said. “I’m still kind of speechless, honestly. We weren’t expecting anything to happen, and then we wake up today, and [Kelly’s] stuff is cleared out of her office.”
Kelly still has not spoken with her former team, and according to senior third baseman Teresa Tolson, the team first heard of her resignation “through the grapevine.”
Junior second baseman Kim Sawyer also said she has had no contact with Kelly, and added that she doubts any contact will occur.
“There are going to be a lot of meetings [between the team],” Sawyer said. “But I don’t know that she’s going to be involved.”
The Gauchos’ 2001 season certainly did not help Kelly’s situation. Santa Barbara did show flashes of its talent, winning eight out of 10 games at one point. But in the end it wasn’t enough, as Santa Barbara endured a stretch where it lost 12 out of 14 games. UCSB also finished the season losing nine straight games.
“It was a difficult year across the board,” Sawyer said. “Playing, everything was difficult.”
Carroll echoed Sawyer’s sentiments and implied that the 2001 Gauchos’ problems began at the top.
“We didn’t have the motivation that teams need to succeed,” Carroll said. “We need someone that has confidence in you no matter what, and we lacked that this year. We lacked someone that could pull us together as a team.”
UCSB will now begin its search for Kelly’s successor. It is not clear at this time in which direction Cunningham will go, but he is expected to start the search soon.
While the Gauchos themselves remain in the dark as to who their next leader will be, they are clearly ready to head in a new direction.
“I think it was just time to move on,” Carroll said. “It’s time to get a new face in here and see if they can make something happen.”