Rift in the system

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

U shortstop Staci Hemingway’s college softball career has been anything but smooth.

“It’s been a total roller coaster,” said Hemingway, who has played under three different head coaches in her three years at the U.

The Utes’ latest head coach is Amy Hogue, a former Utah softball star, who took over the program in May.

While some of the other coaching changes have come as disappointments, Hemingway said, she’s thrilled to have Hogue on board.

“I’m so excited, I can’t even explain,” said Hemingway, who met with Hogue and some teammates in May to discuss the team’s unique situation.

“We let her know we were coming off a hard year,” Hemingway said. “She respects the players. She’s not there to boss us around or control us. She’s there to help us out when we need it.”

Hemingway looks forward to having a positive relationship with her coach, which wasn’t the case last year with coach Angie Jacobs, who took over the team in June 2006.

“(Jacobs) was really negative to all of us,” Hemingway said. “I’ve never played for a coach like coach Jacobs, and I would never want to again.”

Jacobs resigned shortly after the end of the 2007 season.

“This was a difficult season in many ways and I felt it was in my best interests — and in the best interests of the team — to move on and pursue something else,” Jacobs said of her decision.

The U athletic department declined to comment further on Jacobs’ resignition.

It wasn’t just Hemingway who struggled under Jacobs’ leadership.

“A lot of the girls did not have good experiences last year, and that needed to be addressed (by the U athletic department),” Hemingway said. “It’s not like any of us went in there and said, ‘We want a new coach.'”

But after talking it over with the administration, a new coach is what they got — and Hemingway hopes this one will stick.

When Hemingway first showed up on campus, it seemed like her coach was in it for the long haul.

But following Hemingway’s redshirt freshman year, then-coach Mona Stevens resigned.

“Everyone loved (Stevens),” Hemingway said. “It was really disappointing for us.”

Hemingway says there’s no official stance on why Stevens left the program, but Hemingway suspects that the administration may have believed Stevens was too laid-back and wanted a coach who was more discipline-oriented.

A pair of assistant coaches took over the team the following year. Despite the fact that the situation was confusing because “there was no one person in charge,” the Utes had a successful year and reached the NCAA Tournament Super Regional.

With nearly the entire team set to return prior to last season, the Utes seemed poised to make another run with Jacobs at the helm.

But bad blood between Jacobs and her players might have played a part in crippling Utah’s season. The Utes finished at 25-26-1 and were left out of postseason action.

Despite all the bumps in the road, Hemingway said she sees a promising future ahead.

With a fresh coach and virtually the entire team returning — aside from two key pitchers — the Utes expect to have a successful season.

And more important than that, maybe they can finally get what some Utah players have waited their whole careers for: consistency.

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Lennie Mahler

Kristie Keller attempts to force out BYU’s Courtney Nix-Clark at second base. Keller and the Utes will try to turn the program around as Amy Hogue becomes the U softball team’s third head coach in as many years.