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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.
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 led the Braves to their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance in her first season as head coach. A 1992 graduate of Evansville, Hayes has eight years of head coaching experience heading into the 2010 campaign and the Bradley coaching staff was selected as the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Mideast Coaching Staff of the Year in 2009.
The 10th coach in program history, Hayes and the Braves used an impressive late season run to close out her first year en route to the program's first Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title and subsequent NCAA Tournament appearance.
With one week remaining in the 2009 regular season and the Braves in ninth place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings, Hayes led Bradley to a midweek doubleheader sweep of Indiana State and three-game sweep of Missouri State in the final week to catapult BU into sixth place in the final regular season standings.
Bradley finished one-and-a half games out of fourth-place in the Valley standings with a 12-12 league record. The 12 conference wins were a school record and the .500 mark and sixth-place finish were the best for the Braves since 1995.
The Braves were not done there, however, going on to win four consecutive games in three days to claim the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title. Bradley opened tournament play with a 3-2, eight-inning win against Missouri State and followed it up with a 4-2 victory against #3 seed Northern Iowa later that same day.
In the semifinals, Bradley topped #2 seed Southern Illinois (5-3) to advance to the team's first championship game appearance since the 1996 tournament.
A pair of solo home runs and two-hit shutout by pitcher Birdsong highlighted the Braves 2-0 win against #1 seed Creighton as the Braves knocked off the top three seeds in the tournament in consecutive days to claim its first NCAA Tournament appearance. Bradley became the first host to win the MVC Tournament in the 27-year history of the event.
Bradley extended its win streak to 10 consecutive games with a 1-0 victory against 15th-seed and 20th-ranked DePaul in the opening game of the Columbia, Mo., NCAA Regional. The 10-game win streak, which is tied for the second longest in school history, came to an end with a 2-1 loss to 12th-ranked and eventual World Series participant Missouri.
Bradley finished the season with a 26-28 overall record and posted two victories against teams ranked in the top 25. The Braves finished with an impressive 16-9 home record, marking the second most home victories in program history.
Ashley Birdsong was named a First-Team All-MVC pick, marking the first time a Bradley player was a first-team selection since 2006. Birdsong also went on to claim MVC Tournament MVP honors and earned NFCA All-Mideast Region honors, joining Laura Harms (2004) and Kim Suffield (2000) as the only All-Region performers in school history during the 2009 season. In addition, Alycia Bachkora broke the school season record for home runs with 10 and earned second-team All-Valley honors and was an ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District V selection.
Hayes, who has a career coaching record of 239-204 (.540) record, came back to Bradley after three years as head coach at Portland State. She led Portland State to a 92-81 (.532) record, including the Vikings first-ever regular-season conference championship and NCAA Tournament appearance in her first season in 2006. She was head coach at Boston University (2001-04) for four seasons and led the Terriers to three America East Conference regular-season titles, two conference tournament titles and back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2002 and 2003. All told, she owns a 213-176 (.548) record in seven seasons as a head coach and her teams have finished in the top three in the conference race six times. Her players have gone on to capture 20 first-team all-conference honors, nine all-region selections and three conference players of the year.
Hayes earned Pacific Coast Softball Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2006 and led the Vikings to a 38-20 record and first-ever conference title. Portland State, which was 17-28 the year prior to her arrival and had never posted a winning record since moving to the Division I level in 1999, advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history and had three players earn first team all-conference honors in her first year. In addition, pitcher Mandy Hill was named conference Pitcher of the Year and also earned second-team NFCA All-West Region honors.
The next year, Portland State finished fourth in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference regular-season race and catcher Brandi Scoggins earned PCSC co-Freshman of the Year honors in addition to second-team NFCA All-Pacific honors.
In 2008, Hayes' Vikings finished 31-27 overall and tied for second in the PCSC regular-season race in addition to posting wins against PAC 10 conference powers Washington, Oregon State and Oregon. Portland State boasted the conference Freshman of the Year for the second consecutive year and had two first-team all-conference selections. Hayes was the coach for the Portland All-Stars which faced the USA Olympic team.
Hayes was an assistant coach at Oregon during the 2004-05 school year and helped the Ducks to an NCAA Tournament appearance during the 2005 season.
Prior to her one-year stop in Eugene, Ore., she was head coach at Boston University (2001-04). She led the Terriers to three consecutive America East Titles (2001, 02 & 03) and back-to-back conference tournament titles (2002 & 03). During that time she guided Boston to a 121-95 (.560) record, including an impressive 68-18 (.791) mark in America East regular-season play.
During her tenure in Boston, the Terriers swept the conference Player, Pitcher and Rookie of the Year awards in 2002, marking the first time in the history of the America East Conference that one team claimed all three honors in the same season. Boston University claimed 15 first-team America East All-Conference picks, seven NFCA All-Northeast Region selections, two conference Players of the Year, two conference Pitchers of the Year, two conference Rookies of the Year and 12 America East All-Tournament picks. During the summer of 2003, Hayes was the pitching coach for the Spanish National Team, helping the squad prepare for the 2003 World Cup Tournament in Italy.
Hayes took over the head coaching reigns at Boston University after a three-year run as an assistant coach at Virginia Tech. She helped the Hokies to an impressive 127-69 (.648) record, which including a 95-38 (.714) conference mark during her time in Blacksburg, Va.
In her only season on The Hilltop, Hayes helped the Braves to a 25-37 record during the 1997 campaign.
She graduated from Evansville in 1992 with a degree in sociology with a specialization in anthropology and earned first team Midwestern Collegiate Conference honors as a senior. She served as a graduate assistant coach to former Evansville coach Gwen Lewis during the 1993 season and was the head coach at Maroa-Forsyth High School in Maroa, Ill., during the 1993-94 school year.
Hayes played overseas in New Zealand after graduating from Evansville and competed for 10 years at the Women's Major Level from 1996-2006.
Hayes has served on the regional and national ranking committees and is an active member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, currently serving as the chair of the Diversity Committee.
In 2008, the Bradley coaching staff founded POPS (Peoria Organizing Pride in Softball), whose mission is to increase continuity and strengthen the softball presence in the greater Peoria area through education and developmental instruction.
Assistant Coach Bradley University
Bradley softball head coach Amy Hayes completed her coaching staff, announcing Chris Malveaux joined the Braves as assistant softball coach in July 2011. The one-time head coach at McNeese State, Malveaux had spent the previous three years on the coaching staff at Sun Belt Conference power Louisiana-Lafayette.
Malveaux helped Louisiana-Lafayette to three consecutive Sun Belt Conference regular-season and tournament titles in addition to three NCAA Tournament appearances during his tenure. The Ragin' Cajuns, which advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals in 2010 and finished each of the last three years ranked in the national polls, combined for a 141-42 (.770) record during his time in Lafayette, La., including a 61-16 (.792) mark in league play.
The Louisiana-Lafayette coaching staff was selected as the NFCA South Region Coaching Staff of the Year in 2010 and the team averaged 57 home runs per season in his three years. The Ragin' Cajuns also boasted three All-Americans, two Sun Belt Conference Players of the Year, two conference pitchers of the Year, 12 first-team all-conference performers and seven second-team all-league selections in his three seasons. Malveaux joined the Cajuns coaching staff in 2009 as a volunteer assistant and was elevated to assistant coach for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Prior to Louisiana-Lafayette, Malveaux was head coach at McNeese State for four years (2005-08). He guided the Cowgirls' to the Southland Conference Tournament title and just the second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history in his first season. McNeese State produced 14 all-conference selections, including six first-team picks, during his four years as head coach, a Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year and two conference Utility Players of the Year.
During his time in Lake Charles, La., McNeese State belted a school season record 60 home runs in 2005 and also set the Southland Conference season record for doubles with 105.
A 2001 Texas A&M graduate, Malveaux was an assistant coach for three seasons (2002-04) at McNeese State before taking over the head coaching duties. He was a student equipment manager for the softball team at Texas A&M as an undergraduate and also coached the 18-and-under Texas Comets while in College Station, Texas.
Assistant Coach: Bradley University
Portland State graduate Jennie Shollenberger followed head coach Amy Hayes from her alma mater to Central Illinois and helped Bradley to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in her first season on The Hilltop in 2009. Shollenberger played for Hayes in her first season at Portland State was part of the Vikings' coaching staff in 2007 and 2008.
Last season, Shollenberger helped guide the Braves to their best league finish since 1995 (12-12 record and sixth-place finish) and school record 12 league wins. Bradley ended the regular season on a high note, winning the last five regular season games and kept the momentum going into the MVC Tournament where the Braves won four games in three days to claim the team's first-ever Valley title and NCAA Tournament appearance.
"I'm so glad Jennie came with me to Bradley," Hayes said. "It means a lot when former players want to stay on and she has been a tremendous asset to our staff. A student of the game, she is always looking for ways to make our team better. She is always positive and has the ability to say the right thing at the right time. She brings people together and helps them focus on the task at hand."
Facing 15th-seed and 20th-ranked DePaul in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Bradley won its 10th consecutive game in the opening round of the Columbia, Mo., Regional with a 1-0 victory against the Blue Demons. The Braves used their late-season run to finish 26-28 overall.
A native of Spokane, Wash., Shollenberger played three years at North Dakota State before transferring to Portland State for the 2006 season. She started all 58 games at catcher for the Vikings as a senior, helping Portland State to its first-ever Pacific Coast Softball Conference title and NCAA Regional appearance during Hayes' first season as head coach.
Shollenberger served as a student assistant in 2007 and was elevated to assistant coach for the 2008 season, where she helped the Vikings to a second-place tie in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference in addition to posting wins against PAC-10 conference powers Washington, Oregon State and Oregon.
In addition to her in game duties, Shollenberger coaches the outfielders and assists in hitting instruction in addition to serving as the compliance and strength and conditioning liaison for the Braves. She also assists with equipment, team travel and camps.
A 2007 graduate of Portland State, Shollenberger earned a Bachelor of Science degree in School Health. She is currently working towards her master's degree in human development and counseling at Bradley.