A two-time Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Most Valuable Player and four-time all-MIAA first team pick has been tabbed to lead the Albion College softball program.
Over her eight years as a head coach, Leigh Ann LaFave has demonstrated the ability to improve programs while at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minn., and Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. She will return to her native state as head coach of the Britons for the 2016 season.
“We sought an individual with head coaching experience and a knowledge of Division III athletics, who had demonstrated competitive improvement throughout her career as head coach and someone with knowledge of the MIAA and high school softball in the state of Michigan,” Albion Athletic Director Matt Arend said. “Coach LaFave met those three criteria and rose to the top of the applicant pool.
“I’m excited for the future of Albion College softball under Coach LaFave’s leadership,” he added.
LaFave successfully carried out her vision for rebuilding the Wartburg program, engineering the largest turnaround in the history of the Wartburg program as her 2014 squad quadrupled its wins from the 2013 season. The Knights improved further in 2015 with a 22-17 record for the program’s first winning season since 2009.
Three Knights achieved all-Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference distinction in 2015, and a pair were selected all-region by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA).
At Bethany Lutheran, she took a program that transitioned to NCAA Division III athletics and helped it achieve a third-place finish in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference in 2011, the highest conference finish in school history. The Vikings also tallied back-to-back winning records in conference play in 2010 and 2011.
“I look forward to joining the Albion community and I welcome the challenge of rebuilding a program back home in Michigan,” LaFave said. “My goal as the head coach at Albion College is to build women of character and transform student-athletes into champions in the classroom, on the field, and in life. Each day we will put an emphasis on fundamentals as doing the small things right will make a big difference in the end.
“Making connections with the alumni will be important,” LaFave added. “I want to engage them in the re-building process and have them help re-establish the excitement that I personally remember when Albion played my alma mater.”
Originally from Escanaba, LaFave was a successful pitcher at Alma College. The Scots achieved a 132-36 record and advanced to the NCAA Division III Championship all four years as champion of the MIAA, wining regional championships in 2004 and 2005.
LaFave still ranks as the MIAA’s all-time leader with a 0.38 ERA in 182 innings pitched against conference opponents. At Alma, she ranks as the all-time leader in ERA, strikeouts and shutouts and is second in complete games, innings pitched and wins.
She also was named an NFCA third-team All-American in her junior year, a second-team NFCA Scholar-Athlete in 2004 and was a 2005 nominee for the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year award.
In addition to a bachelor’s degree from Alma, LaFave holds a master’s degree in business administration from Ellis University and a master’s degree in sport administration from Minnesota State University Mankato.