Colorado Springs, Colo. – Eighteen years ago, one of the most distinguished teams in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) featured fourteen, skilled softball student-athletes and one seasoned head coach. The 1999 University of Nebraska at Kearney softball team made winning a tradition and working hard a habit as they finished the season 39-4 overall and 22-0 in the RMAC (note the RMAC does not include forfeited games). Former UNK pitcher and designated player, Terrisa (Eckmann) Reeves was on the team that year and recalls how the team’s dynamic was key towards their success.
“It was all business fromstart to end,” said Terrisa. “Pitching was great, defense was great and in that you get such a unified front; it was amazing…We were disciplined in a way that we took every game seriously and you don’t assume anything going into a game. What’s humbling is that every single member of our team knew that going in to the game.” The team, which consisted of Terrisa Reeves, Amanda (Kelly) Jamros, Darcie Berry, Kelly Moats, Christine Rollman, Holly (Waller) Carnes, Tina (McCaslin) Holm, Erin (Perry) Swarm, Laura (Espenmiller) North, Becky Sintek, Karla (Simmons) Rohde, Sarah (Anderson) Gangwish, Jennifer Averill and Shawna (Young) Bowman, was led by former head coach Dan Simmons. Dan is a UNK Hall of Famer (2001) and a four-time RMAC Coach of the Year winner. He was assisted that spring by Jim Holm and former Loper star Lisa (Graff) Timmons. “Dan, he demanded excellence and in a coach like that you have to appreciate it,” said Terrisa. “I would say in my career, he was by far one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He saw what was special in each individual player and he demanded that excellence even more. Players like Amanda, Holly and Chris, and Laura, you take those amazing qualities of those players and demand more.”
Dan developed the 1999 softball squad into some of the best student-athletes to come from UNK and the RMAC. To name a few, Berry had a fantastic year becoming the season leader in home runs, which places her third all-time for the Lopers. Her 15 home runs were also fourth in the nation (NCAA Division II) in 1999. Moats was one of the toughest players to strikeout that year. She finished 10th in DII with only two strikeouts in 114 at-bats. In addition, UNK led the nation with 53 home runs for an average of 1.23 home runs per game. They also pitched a total of 333 strikeouts, good enough for second all-time at UNK. The 1999 RMAC Pitcher of the Year, Kelly pitched 223 of the 333 strikeouts thrown, placing her seventh all-time in the RMAC for season strikeouts. That year, she was ranked second in the nation averaging eleven strikeouts per seven innings and went 20-0 with 15 shutouts and a 0.54 earned-run average. The Lopers captured the 1999 RMAC regular season and tournament titles for the fifth consecutive year (1995–99) and made their fourth appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament. They took control of the regional tournament with a 4-0 victory over Washburn and a 4-3 win over Southeastern Oklahoma State. In the final game, they defeated Truman State 3-0 to take home the NCAA South Central Region Championship title. In 2009, several of the players from the 1999 squad were named to the RMAC Softball Centennial All-Time Team, which includes Berry, Kelly, and Espenmiller. Simmons was named RMAC All-Time Top Coach. The 1999 UNK softball team is the first-ever softball team inducted into the RMAC Hall of Fame. They will be honored on Friday, July 14th at the Colorado Springs Marriott Hotel.