New Coaching Staff Signals New Era

Story posted October 16, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Kristen Garrone

The Sandusky scandal, NCAA sanctions, and firing of an iconic head coach are keywords that conjure images of where Penn State University was one year ago this fall. As time progressed, the University began to mend; and it culminated with a new coach. While on a smaller scale, the successes and leadership of Bill O’Brien in the Penn State football program are looking to be matched by the new head coach of the women’s softball program, Amanda Lehotak. The new head coach brings with her a new coaching staff to the Nittany Lions as they look improve in the 2013-2014 season.

Robin Petrini was the longest tenured coach in the softball program, holding the position as head coach for 17 years. She brought the program to new heights, boasting a lifetime record of 489 wins, 437 losses, and two ties. In a news conference that took place this past August, she was thankful for her career at Penn State.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to have coached at Penn State," said Petrini. "I would like to thank all of the wonderful student-athletes I have coached over the years, as well as Jen McIntyre (associate head coach) and assistants who have contributed so much to the success of the Penn State Softball Program.”

Petrini achieved great successes with her athletes and teams.  She took over the team in 1996 and by the 2000 season, had coached the team to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 15 years. During her reign at Penn State, she coached almost 100 softball players who found great success on the field. Amongst them were four NFCA All- Americans, with senior outfielder Cassidy Bell as a first-team honoree; two players on National Fastpitch teams, and the first player in Penn State softball history invited to a team USA tryout. Coach Petrini was also impactful on a national softball scale herself. She was a four-year member of the NCAA National Softball Committee, a member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association National Staff, and a part of the All- America Softball Selection Committee.

The athletics department, along with many at Penn State, is thankful for coach Petrini’s contribution to the program.

"I am very appreciative of Robin's contributions to the softball program and Penn State. Robin has developed her softball student-athletes as exemplary representatives of Penn State,” said Director of Athletics, Dave Joyner. “We thank her for 17 years of loyal service to Penn State University, and wish her all the best."

Lehotak, a former coach at the University of Texas at San Antonio, will now take control. She looks to bring her coaching style that has a unique base.

“Its about respect, I respect the game, I respect my individual athletes, I work very hard for their respect. I want my kids to work hard, so I work hard for them,” said Lehotak. “We’re very humble, we’re hardworking, there’s a lot into that.”  

Lehotak also coached six seasons at Jacksonville University in Florida. She spent five of those seasons as the head coach, boasting a school record of 137 career wins, and led her team to their first ever NCAA tournament appearance in 2011. While at UTSA, she improved the program to a .287 batting average, (the team’s highest since 2006) and a .970 fielding percentage; bringing the team to a ranking of 32nd in the country.

With the addition of a new head coach, Penn State softball also sees the installation of two new assistant coaches in Megan Gibson and Joe Guthrie. A three-time All-American at Texas A&M and former coach at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Gibson will serve as the pitching coach, this being her second year coaching alongside Lehotak.

“She’s taken me under her wing, I feel like I’ve learned so much under her, and I have so much more to learn,” said Gibson, who feels Coach Lehotak has had a huge impact on her as a coach.

Assistant coach Joe Guthrie brings a change of pace for the softball program. As a former baseball player for the University of Alabama, he has a wealth of knowledge on the game of softball and a unique perspective, given his background.

“Fans can expect that we’re going to play the game right. We’re going to hustle I believe that if you play the game right it will repay you,” said the new woman in charge of Penn State softball.

The Nittany Lions are looking to put up big numbers this season. Their spring schedule has not yet been announced, however the team will have solid competition from the west and in the Big Ten Conference. Just as Bill O’Brien has empowered the football team, the new softball coaches look to make a positive impact on their athletes, as well as the university as a whole.