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Braves claim their first MVC Tournament title

Jacqueline Vitale and Miriam Wegmann each hit solo home runs and Amanda Clack robbed Creighton's Bailey Dawson of a potential game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth to highlight a 2-0 Bradley win over the Bluejays in the championship game of the 2009 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship at the EastSide Centre. The tournament title is the first for the Braves and Bradley receives the MVC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Amy Hayes


Head Coach: Bradley University

A former Bradley assistant coach and Decatur, Ill., native, Amy Hayes returned to The Hilltop in the summer of 2008 and has led the Braves to the first two NCAA Tournament appearances in school history during her eight years on The Hilltop. A 1992 graduate of Evansville, Hayes is beginning her ninth year as Bradley's head coach and 16th overall as a collegiate head coach.

The 10th coach in program history, Hayes and the Braves are coming off three consecutive top-six league finishes since the first four years as members of the Gateway Conference (1984-87) and Bradley has combined for 50 conference victories over the last four years to tie for the second most Valley wins in a four-year span among any Bradley athletic program.

Hayes owns a school record 84 MVC victories and her 165 career wins on The Hilltop rank second all-time. Recently, the 2014 campaign resulted in the best conference finish (4th) since taking second in 1994, the most Missouri Valley Conference wins (15) in program history, the team's second MVC Tournament title and second NCAA Tournament appearance.


Benet Higgs


Assistant Coach: Bradley University

Benet Higgs is in her fourth year on The Hilltop after joining the Bradley softball program as an assistant coach in August 2013 and assumed her role as the team's hitting coach for the 2016 campaign.

In her first year as hitting coach last spring, Bradley clubbed a Missouri Valley Conference record 44 doubles in Valley play and tied a school record with 71 two-baggers. The Braves also boasted a school record .447 slugging percentage in 2016 and hit the second most home runs (36) in school history. Rachel Huggins took over at designated player and broke the school season record with 12 home runs in addition to teaming up with Bradley career home run leader Alyson Clemente to give the Braves two players with 38 or more RBI for the first time. Clemente was one of two NFCA All-Region honorees for Bradley in 2016, with Kelly Kapp joining her on the team after becoming just the third Brave to hit .400 or better (.405) in a season. In addition to the two all-region honorees, Bradley had four Second-Team All-MVC honorees for the most all-conference selections for the Braves since 1994.

Higgs helped Bradley Softball match a school record with 15 conference victories in 2015. Freshman outfielder Erika Hansen led the Valley with 20 doubles and was a Third-Team NFCA All-Mideast Region in addition to earning First-Team All-MVC honors after driving in a team-best 41 runs in 2015. In addition, Kapp led the Valley with a school record 76 hits and swiped a conference-best 31 bases to become just the second player in Valley history with 75 hits and 30 steals in a season.


Jhavon Hamilton


Assistant Coach: Bradley University

No stranger to the Missouri Valley Conference, former Illinois State standout Jhavon Hamilton joined the Bradley Softball coaching staff as an assistant in August 2015 and is in her second year on The Hilltop.

Hamilton, who works with the Bradley outfielders in addition to coordinating team travel and equipment, helped lead the Braves to a share of fifth-place in the MVC regular standings in 2016. Her first season saw Bradley produce four Second-Team All-MVC honorees, marking the most all-conference selections for the Braves since 1994. In addition, Bradley career home run leader Alyson Clemente and outfielder Kelly Kapp were both NFCA All-Region selections as the Braves had two all-region performers in the same season for the first time in program history.

The 2016 Braves clubbed a MVC record 44 doubles in conference games along with breaking or tying school season records for doubles (71), slugging percentage (.447) and hit by pitch (38).


Rachel Huggins


Volunteer Assistant Coach: Bradley University

Recent Bradley graduate Rachel Huggins joined the Bradley Softball coaching staff in August 2016 as a volunteer assistant and is in her first season as a coach with the Braves after wrapping up her playing career on The Hilltop in the spring of 2016.

A second-team All-MVC performer as a senior, Huggins slugged a school season record 12 home runs as a senior and was named the team's MVP. Her team-best 39 RBI tied for the fifth-best season total in school history and her .603 slugging percentage as a senior ranks third.

After starting a total of 17 games her first three seasons, Huggins started 47 of 48 games at designated player in 2016 and hit .300 with eight home runs in MVC play in addition to tying the Bradley mark for RBI in conference games by driving in 24 runs.


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