LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart has announced the hiring of Rachel Lawson as the Wildcats new head softball coach. Lawson becomes just the third head coach in the history of the Kentucky softball program after spending the past three seasons at Western Kentucky. She also served as an assistant coach at Maryland from 1996-2002 and was the associate head coach of the Philadelphia Force professional team last year.
“We’re very excited to have Rachel join our program as the head softball coach,” said Barnhart. “She has an excellent track record at both Western Kentucky and Maryland and her intensity will make her a great fit as we continue to build the softball program.”
Lawson posted a record of 92-84 (.523) during her tenure with the Hilltoppers. In her first season at WKU, she led the Toppers to a spot in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game. Picked to finish last in the preseason poll, WKU tied for second in the conference standings after setting a school record with 12 Sun Belt victories. The Billings, Mont., native led WKU to a 33-24 record in 2005 and reached the 30-win plateau again in 2007.
Lawson and the Hilltoppers battled nine NCAA Regional participants in 2006, including four teams ranked in the top-25, while finishing third in the Sun Belt regular season play. She guided the squad to wins over perennial powers Long Beach State, South Florida, Mississippi Valley, as well as No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 21 Louisville. In fact, then-freshman pitcher Ryan Rogge tossed the school’s third-ever no hitter against the Ragin’ Cajuns in WKU’s 8-0 victory – the win handed UL its first ever run-rule defeat in an SBC contest. Three Hilltoppers – Lathrop, Rolfs, and Rogge – each earned SBC Player- and Pitcher-of-the-Week honors throughout the season, as Rolfs and outfielder Alana Towns notched all-conference honors.
“I want to thank Mitch Barnhart and the other members of the University of Kentucky athletic department for granting me the opportunity to become the newest head softball coach at UK,” said Lawson. “I consider it a great honor to work at one of the premier athletic departments in the country and I am looking forward to the challenge of elevating the program to the national stage.”
Lawson was a two-time all-conference player at Massachusetts, where she was part of a program that advanced to the 1992 Women’s College World Series, and has seven years experience as an assistant coach at Maryland.
During her four-year career at UMass, Lawson helped the Minutewomen post a combined record of 142-68 (67.6%) including a 39-3 (92.9%) Atlantic 10 mark. In addition to the ’92 WCWS appearance, she was a part of squads that also advanced to the NCAA Tournament her freshman season, won three A-10 Tournament titles and claimed the league regular-season championship four straight years.
Lawson was honored individually for her accomplishments on and off the field. She was both an all-conference and all-Atlantic 10 Tournament performer in 1992 and ’94, and was also named to the A-10 Academic all-conference squad following each of her final two seasons.
Lawson joined the Maryland staff in 1996 and helped the Terrapins post six winning seasons in her seven years in College Park. Her responsibilities included recruiting, scheduling, organizing practice and travel, as well as running camps and clinics. In 1999, Lawson and company were selected the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Mid-Atlantic Coaching Staff of the Year after leading the Terrapins to a 51-23 record, their first ACC regular-season title and the championship game of the NCAA Region II Tournament.
During her time at Maryland, Lawson helped eight individuals earn NFCA all-region accolades — with an All-America honoree in 1999 — and nine players collect all-conference honors.
A 1994 graduate of Massachusetts, Lawson also earned her master’s degree from UMass in 1998.