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February 20, 2007

In the world of sports, the word domination is rarely thrown around at the risk of sounding cliché. But when referring to Jocelyn Forest, domination might as well be her middle name.

As a California Golden Bear, she established herself as a lights-out pitcher. Her collegiate career culminated with three straight memorable performances against powerhouse Arizona during the 2002 College Softball World Series. Forest pitched picture-perfect softball while simultaneously out-dueling fellow softball stud Jennie Finch - yeah, that Jennie Finch. Forest pitched her way to a College Softball World Series MVP award, two All-America honors and numerous All-Pac 10 accolades.

Now she's making a career out of it. Last summer, Forest pitched within the National Professional Fastpitch League and, as a pitcher for the New England Riptide, she's left some of the best pro players in the country looking rather amateurish.

"Rising to the top is just something that kind of comes natural," Forest says.

That's an understatement. The newest addition to the Nittany Lion softball coaching staff has a few goals in mind as she takes over as pitching coach for the Nittany Lions. In the same way that she's consistently risen to the top and taken her game to the next level, Forest looks to do the same for a pitching staff that has all of the tools and intangibles needed to make annual runs for the Big Ten and NCAA championships.

"We've got some great pitchers on the staff with a good mix of pitches that can hang with anyone," says Forest.

Softball has taken Forest to many places on the globe, from east to west in the United States, even out of the country to the Netherlands. So how on earth did the gifted softballer from California end up in Happy Valley?

Well, like most things at Penn State, the answer can be traced back to the football team.

"My boyfriend and I came up for the Nebraska versus Penn State game a few years back," replies Forest. "We looked on schedules to see any interesting match-ups and we decided that this game would be the most fun to travel to. We had no ties to either team and it was totally random."

Out of the trip came a good first impression that stuck with Forest. Head coach Robin Petrini, having heard of Forest's collegiate career and her trip to Penn State, contacted the all-everything pitcher in the summer and the rest is history.

With the season opener on Feb. 10 vs. national power Tennessee, Forest seems poised to make an immediate impact on this Nittany Lion squad by imparting her knowledge onto the Nittany Lion staff. Whether it's helping her players with perfecting their pre-pitch rituals, going through the strides, or physics homework, Forest is there.

"I want my players to learn how to be complete individuals, off and on the field. You learn a lot in these years you have here and I want them to get as much out of them as possible," Forest says.

Forest has pitched in enough pressure-filled situations to understand what pitchers need. To her, nothing is more important than being tough. She's hoping that some of her intensity and toughness rubs off onto her pitching staff.

"I see a little bit of myself with everyone in the rotation," says Forest."I just want them to be low-maintenance, put the team first and be ready to go at all times for the sake of the teammates around them."

Forest's knack for toughness comes from her very own experience as a player. Standing at a relatively small height (5-4), she was regarded as too small by many colleges to be able to win at the collegiate level.

"When I heard the doubters say I was too short to do anything meaningful, it just made me work that much harder," she says."I focused on what I wanted to get done and it happened."

But Forest isn't all about winning. She is adamant about helping her players have long term results from all the coaching and guidance that she offers. In the end, she wants her pitchers to take joy in what they have the chance to do right now.

Another aspect of coaching that many work hard for is the ability to relate to the players. In Forest's case, relating is easy. It wasn't too long ago that the 26-year-old was striking out All-Americans at Berkeley. Plus, she still pitches professionally within the U.S. national team system and the Riptide, who this past summer won the National Professional Fastpitch League title with Forest taking MVP honors.

"I feel that I know what they're going through and I know the situations they can get into since I've been there before and still am there. I think I can help them grow," states Forest.

As the pre-season workouts continue, it looks like her coaching philosophy is taking shape. The Penn State pitching staff pitched tough during the fall, recording several shutouts. With the Big Ten season coming up mid-way through the spring season, Forest feels the Lions have great things ahead.

"I really am excited for this team and for the goals they have the chance to accomplish," she says."Being at a school like Penn State in the Big Ten, you have the chance to reap both academic and athletic success."

When the season starts and Forest is in the dugout, you can bet the Nittany Lions will be in safe hands as they start their journey.

"This place feels more like a family than any other place I've been and that's what's going to take us to the next level."




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