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Penn State meets Maryland at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday
Nittany Lions travel to Ann Arbor for three-game series with Big Ten-leading Wolverines
Nittany Lions visit Panthers for last non-conference game of the season
Nittany Lions visit Panthers for last non-conference game of the season
Nittany Lions host Scarlet Knights in first meeting as Big Ten opponents
With a quality coaching résumé, top-notch Division I playing credentials and unbridled ambition, Petrini and her staff have rebuilt a program that hadn't been to an NCAA tournament since 1985 when she took the 2000 Lion squad to the national tournament.
"We've established a standard and our expectation is that we get to NCAAs every year. Now we're looking to improve upon that," stated Petrini. "We've been to the NCAAs eight times. It doesn't get any easier to accomplish that goal, but now we want to take it to the next level. We want to get to the next round of the NCAAs and move forward with our expectations of this program."
Since taking over in 1997, Petrini has upgraded the program to become nationally competitive. She brought on board an excellent coaching staff with competitive experience at the collegiate ranks and upgraded the schedule to include nationally prominent teams year in and year out. In 1999, she led the Nittany Lions to their first 30-win season since 1988 and earned Big Ten Co-Coach of the year en route to a Big Ten Tournament bid. Since then, Petrini's teams have recorded seven more 30-win seasons, including 2006's 39-17 NCAA Tournament campaign, which set the school record for wins in a season.
More recently, Petrini overcame a three-year drought from the NCAA tournament by taking the 2011 club not only to the event, but by hosting the NCAA Regionals at brand new Nittany Lion Softball Park and Beard Field. Petrini was instrumental in the building of the $10.2 million, softball-only complex on Penn State's campus. In less than a year's time, the new facility hosted the NCAA tournament and all four levels of the PIAA Softball Championship.
After only two seasons rebuilding the program, Petrini and the Lions started to become a factor in the conference with the 2000 season. That year, Penn State recorded its first back-to-back 30-win seasons and broke the school record for wins, which it set in the previous year. A school-best eight Lions were named All-Big Ten, including four first team selections. Petrini not only guided Penn State to its second consecutive Big Ten tournament appearance, but the team also participated in its first NCAA tournament since 1985.
Petrini's teams have consistently rewritten the Lion record books since her arrival. In 2000, her squad broke four team records and eight individual records. Jaci Kalp graduated as Penn State's most decorated pitcher in school history. Kalp left as the school's career-victories leader and broke the season mark for strikeouts, now held by 2006 graduate Missy Beseres.
2001... The 2001 campaign saw the Lions post their third-straight 30-win season. That team went on to break eight Penn State marks, including the single-season marks for victories by a pitcher and doubles. Kelly McCann won 22 games that year, while Megan Humphrey broke an 11-year old record for doubles with 15. The Lions made their second-straight trip to both postseason tournaments (NCAA and Big Ten).
2002... Eight single-season Penn State records fell in 2002 as the Nittany Lions made their fourth-straight trip to the Big Ten Tournament and third consecutive NCAA Regional Tournament appearance. All-Great Lakes Region selection Jennifer Tripken's 16 home runs broke an eight-year old Penn State mark as the team belted out 28 on the season, also a school record. She also tied the single-season RBI record set in 1988 while Gina Bianchini broke the season record for singles. This Penn State squad set or tied three Big Ten tournament records.
2003... A 31-23 record found the Lions in their fourth-straight NCAA tournament, but a 9-9 conference record left Penn State just outside the Big Ten tournament picture. On March 23 vs. James Madison, Petrini recorded her 200th career victory with a 3-0 shutout. Bianchini earned second team All-Great Lakes Region in her final campaign and finished as the team's all-time leader for stolen bases.
2004... Compiling a 25-33 season after a grueling schedule, Penn State made the Big Ten tournament with an 8-12 record, but missed selection to the NCAA tournament. The Lions placed three on the All-Big Ten teams with freshmen Jen Williams and Meghan Wolfer landing on the second team, while junior Leigh Murray earned third team honors.
2005... Penn State compiled its sixth 30-win season in the past seven when it finished the year 36-23, two wins shy of matching the then-program record for victories. The Lions made both Big Tens and NCAAs, winning a pair of games at the NCAA Region 5 Tournament. Freshman utility player Ashley Esparza exploded onto the scene, batting .402 for the year and earning NFCA third team All-America. Redshirt-junior Missy Beseres broke the school's single season strikeout mark by fanning a record 260 batters. A third team selection, she joined Esparza, who was named first team, on the All-Big Ten squad. Four Lions were named All-Region, with Esparza and classmate Hollee Haines garnering first team and freshman Jen Acunto and Beseres earning second team recognition.
2006... The 2006 season brough the Nittany Lions their highest win total in program history (39) and saw Penn State earn its sixth NCAA appearance in the past seven years. The Lions posted a 39-17 record, made their seventh Big Ten tournament appearance, and won two games during the NCAA tournament en route to the recordbreaking year. Sophomore Jen Reynolds was named first team All-Big Ten as a utility player and five Lions total received all-conference accolades. Three members of the Penn State team were also named to the 2006 Great Lakes All-Region team including sophomore utility player Ashley Esparza, who got a first-team nod for the second consecutive season. Red-shirt senior pitcher Missy Beseres and sophomore shortstop Jen Acunto repeated as second-team all-region selections. Beseres also became the first Nittany Lion drafted to the NPFL when she was selected in the fourth round by the Chicago Bandits.
2007... In a year wrought with injuries and what seemed like the curse of Mother Nature on the conference season, Penn State still rose to the occasion and earned a spot in both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. Sophomore Danielle Kinley cemented her place in Nittany Lion history by becoming the third Penn Stater to earned All-America honors overall and the second in three years. The outfielder's .375 at the plate and command of centerfield for the Nittany Lions grabbed her second team honors. Kinley and junior pitcher/first baseman Ashley Esparza earned all-conference honors, with both landing on the third team.
2008... An increase in playing time allowed the Nittany Lions to gain more experience before heading into Big Ten play and helped them amass a 30-win season for the eighth time in the past 10 years. Once again, inclement weather canceled two crucial games and this time it caused Penn State to just miss the cut to the Big Ten tournament. Despite the outcome, senior pitcher Ashley Esparza earned her third all-conference honor, and 10 Nittany Lions earned Academic All-Big Ten accolades.
2009... The Nittany Lions endured one of the toughest schedules in the program's history, which included games against eventual NCAA champion Washington, Women's College World Series qualifier Michigan as well as Super Regional participants Ohio State, among others. Ashley Griffith and Lisa Akamine each earned their first All-Big Ten honors.
2011... Penn State played one of its toughest schedules in school history in search of a return to NCAA Regionals. Buoyed by a great strength of schedule and a closing five-game winning streak, the Nittany Lions not only made the NCAA postseason, they hosted the four-team regional event for the first time in 28 years. Petrini led Penn State to its ninth 30-win season and eighth NCAA appearance during her tenure. Four Lions earned All-Big Ten honors, including three on the second team (Jackie Hill, Lisa Akamine and Cassidy Bell). Penn State's regular season was highlighed by a 5-2 win over then-No. 9 and eventual College World Series participant Oklahoma on Mar. 18, while PSU earned a spot in the NCAA Regional Final. The Lions reached the final after a 16-inning thriller over Fordham in the second-longest game in school history before falling to No. 12 Oregon in the final, 3-1.
2012... After opening the season with a notable, 5-3 win over Women's College World Series participant LSU on the road, the 2012 Nittany Lions struggled to find consistency as the team battled to an 18-32 finish. Penn State captured series against Big Ten foes Michigan State, Indiana and Minnesota aided by outstanding individual efforts from All-Big Ten honorees Cassidy Bell and Kasie Hatfield. Bell carved her name at the top of the program single-season batting average charts to earn first team all-conference and a spot on the NFCA All-Great Lakes first team. Hatfield earned second-team All-Big Ten honors after leading conference catchers in multiple offensive columns.
Before Penn State
Petrini spent eight seasons at Northwestern University prior to her tenure at PSU. Named associate head coach in 1995-96, Petrini served as an assistant coach for the Wildcats from 1988-95. The primary Northwestern recruiter, she was instrumental in assembling the 1997 class, regarded as one of the top two in the nation.
During Petrini's appointment, Northwestern produced 12 All-Big Ten selections, as well as an All-American and several GTE Academic All-Americans. The Wildcats compiled 30-win seasons in four of her last five years, and finished fourth or better in the conference race five times during her eight seasons.
"I am a firm believer in the student-athlete concept," confided Petrini. "I am committed to making sure that our athletes are given the opportunity to be successful academically and athletically. I believe our athletes have the opportunity to get a quality education and play some of the finest softball in the country."
She continues that excellence with her Penn State teams, as well. While in Happy Valley, she has produced 33 All-Big Ten performers, 94 academic all-conference, 16 CoSIDA Academic All-District honorees, six CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, multiple National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Americans as well as three Academic All-America first teamers including current assistant coach Jen McIntyre.
Prior to her position at Northwestern, Petrini spent five years at Brigham Young University, where she received her master's degree in physical education. After one season as the Cougars' assistant coach, she was promoted to head coach. Working without the aid of scholarships, she developed a nationally competitive program that beat a pair of top 20 teams in 1988.
A native of South San Francisco, Calif., Petrini is a 1983 graduate of Utah State University with bachelor's degrees in political science and physical education. She enjoyed a successful playing career as a four-year letterwinner and starting shortstop for the Aggies' 1980 and 1981 AIAW national championship squads. In September 2011, Petrini and her teammates from those national championship teams were inducted into the Utah State Athletics Hall of Fame. A three-time all-conference selection, she was also an All-America nominee. In the summer of 2003, she was inducted into the San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame, which also includes the likes of Tom Brady and John Madden.