Kate Stake | Head Coach
Valparaiso University director of athletics Mark LaBarbera announced on July 23, 2014 that Kate Stake has been hired as the new head coach of the Crusader softball program. Stake comes to Valpo with eight seasons of assistant coaching experience at the Division I level, most recently serving as an assistant at mid-major power Hofstra.
Stake spent two seasons on the coaching staff at Hofstra, working under NFCA Hall of Fame head coach Bill Edwards and helping the Pride to a combined 81 wins over her two years. The 2014 squad went 35-14 and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, finishing the season ranked #33 in RPI. Eight members of the Pride were named NFCA All-Region honorees this past season as well.
In her first season, Stake was part of the NFCA Northeast Region Coaching Staff of the Year which led Hofstra to a 46-13 record as the Pride won regular season and conference tournament championships. Hofstra ended the 2013 campaign ranked #19 in RPI and #25 nationally in the NFCA/USA Today poll, and advanced to the NCAA regional title game. In both of Stake’s seasons with the Pride, Hofstra hit better than .300 and had six regulars hit above the .300 mark.
Prior to her time at Hofstra, Stake spent three seasons as an assistant coach at the United States Military Academy, working primarily with the infielders and serving as the hitting coach. During her time at Army, the program set new single-season records for wins, conference wins, hits and total bases, while in Stake’s final season with the Black Knights, four players made the school's single-season top-10s in hits and RBIs and two players moved into the single-season top-10 in batting average.
Defensively, Stake helped the Black Knights post the Patriot League's top fielding percentage in 2011, while Army ranked second in the category in 2010 and 2012 as well. Over her three seasons, five infielders earned All-Conference accolades, including three First Team selections under her tutelage.
Before arriving at West Point, Stake served two years as a full-time assistant coach for Eastern Illinois after one season as a graduate assistant in 2007. As the primary defensive instructor and first-base coach, Stake also aided in recruiting, concentrating on the Midwest region. Off the field, she monitored the team's academic progress and helped coordinate fundraising efforts while also organizing the team's travel arrangements.
A 2005 graduate of Illinois State, Stake started four years at second base for the Redbirds, playing for NFCA Hall of Fame head coach Melinda Fischer, ranking among Illinois State’s all-time leaders in games started, hits, home runs, RBIs and total bases.
The Buffalo Grove, Ill. native earned Second Team All-American honors in 2005 and was a four-time All-Conference selection – including First Team accolades each of her final two years. She was the recipient of the Linda Herman Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year at Illinois State, the school’s highest academic award given to a student-athlete, and was an Academic All-American as well. In the classroom, Stake earned a bachelor's degree in English education from Illinois State and a master's degree in kinesiology and sports studies from Eastern Illinois.
Monica Wright | Assistant Coach
Monica Wright joined the Valparaiso softball coaching staff as an assistant coach in July of 2015. Wright, who spent the four previous seasons at Bowling Green, will work directly with the Crusader pitching staff.
During her four years at Bowling Green, Wright led a pitching staff which posted a cumulative ERA of 2.55 over her tenure. In 2012, the Falcons finished the season with a 2.10 ERA, which ranked 32nd in the country, while the next season saw BGSU post a MAC-best earned run average of 2.17, good for 24th nationally.
Wright guided a pair of pitchers while at BGSU who both rank among the Falcons’ top-10 winningest pitchers of all time and are 1-2 in Bowling Green history in saves. Jamie Kertes finished her career third in program history in strikeouts and fourth in victories. Kertes was named the MAC Freshman of the Year in 2012 and was a two-time First Team All-Conference award winner. Meanwhile, Paris Imholz was an All-Freshman Team selection as a rookie and was also a Second Team All-Conference honoree.
Prior to arriving at Bowling Green, Wright spent the 2011 season as an assistant pitching coach at Elon, where she helped guide the Phoenix to 30 victories as a pair of pitchers ranked among the top-seven in program history in single-season strikeouts. Wright has also spent time as a pitching instructor at Elite Sports Performance in Oswego, Ill. where she educated pitchers on proper pitching mechanics and fundamentals, as well as leading conditioning and agility drills.
Wright played three years collegiately at Indiana, where she made 124 career appearances, tossing 48 complete games. She recorded 30 wins as a Hoosier and registered 348 strikeouts. A Big Ten All-Academic Team choice, Wright ranks among the Hoosiers’ top-six all-time in career appearances, starts and innings pitched. She spent her first season at UNI, tallying team highs with 169.2 innings pitched and 91 strikeouts, before transferring to IU.
Taylor Williams | Graduate Assistant
Valparaiso softball head coach Kate Stake announced that the program has added Taylor Williams as a graduate assistant for the upcoming 2016 season. Williams comes to Valpo after a successful career playing at Virginia.
Williams was a four-year starter in the outfield for the Cavaliers, finishing her career at Virginia with 54 career stolen bases – fourth-most in program history. She was a member of the Cavaliers’ 2010 squad which made the program’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament, and was a four-time member of the All-ACC Academic Team.
Williams also brings coaching experience with her to the Crusader softball staff. She was an assistant coach for the Hylton [Va.] H.S. varsity squad this past spring, helping to lead the team to 19 wins – matching a school record – and its conference regular season and tournament titles as she worked with the hitters and outfielders. She also served as an assistant coach, working with outfielders, for the NJ Intensity 16u team.
Williams earned a bachelor’s degree from Virginia in May of 2013, completing a double major in media studies and women, gender & sexuality studies. She will be working towards a master’s degree in TESOL at Valparaiso.
Clare Bukowski | Graduate Manager
Clare Bukowski joined the Valparaiso coaching staff as a graduate assistant for the 2015 season.
Bukowski was a four-year starter in the outfield for Elmhurst College from 2010-2014, where she holds the career and single-season home run records. In addition, Bukowski currently ranks second in program history in at-bats, runs scored, doubles, extra-base hits and RBIs, and is also a two time CCIW All-Conference selection.
In 2013, Bukowski interned for the Chicago Bandits, Chicago’s professional softball team, working with professional softball players, public relations and the team’s marketing department. She assisted along with former softball Olympians at Jennie Finch’s Softball Camp.
Bukowski earned her bachelor's degree in exercise science with minors in coaching and psychology from Elmhurst College in 2014, graduating cum laude. She is currently working towards her master's degree in sports administration.