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Gabriel brings experience, leadership to Falcon squad

March 14, 2008

The Falcons’ softball team acquired a new head coach in July to lead them to another anticipated record-breaking season.

Jody Gabriel fittingly took the position of interim head coach from former head coach Faye Perkins. Prior to taking up her new position, Gabriel was the assistant coach for softball and worked with Perkins for five years at UW-River Falls.

This is the first change of the head softball coach in 19 years.

Last season the team finished third at the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) and set the record for college softball wins at 32-12, a record they hope to break again this season.

“This year’s team is really strong. We expect to be on top of the conference,” said Gabriel.
Last July, Connie Foster took the position of provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, leaving the position of interim dean of education and professional studies open. Perkins took that opening and left the head coach position vacant for the assistant to take her place.

“I do feel very confident in Jody and that it will be a smooth transition,” said Perkins. “She knows the players, the conference and the competition levels. She is very well-prepared as head coach.”

The transition of leaders for a team can be difficult for players, especially the senior players, who have become accustomed to the new coaching.

“When Faye decided to take the dean position at the beginning of this season, knowing Jody was still going to be involved with the team was a relief,” Ashley Bertrand, a third-year senior on the team said. “It’s scary to have a new coaching staff.”

Perkins feels great about her new position as dean of education but bad about leaving the team and the department of health and human performance.

“It is a great opportunity for me to become interim dean. The timing is great,” said Perkins. “Everyday at 4 p.m. I look at the clock and want to go to practice. It was a major part of my life.”

Although Perkins mentioned that it is hard to stay away from the team, she said she “tries to maintain a distance so Jody can do her job as the head coach.”

“Jody had some big shoes to fill after Faye left, but there was no doubt that she’d be a perfect fit for the program,” Brittany Rathbun, who has been with the team and Gabriel for four years and is one of four senior players, said. “She has really done a great job of finding that balance of keeping the tradition of Falcon softball around while bringing in some new things to challenge us. It has been a really nice transition for all of us.”

Gabriel’s softball experience proves she is prepared for the job. Before coming to UWRF she played high school softball at Forest Lake, Minn. from 1990-92. She competed with the Falcons as a student from 1994-96. The 1994 team won the WIAC title. Gabriel coached at the University of Minnesota-St. Mary’s for two years, where the Cardinals were co-MIAC champions in 2001 and placed second in 2002. She has also coached high school and travel levels of softball throughout the Twin Cities, working primarily with infield corners and hitters.

Gabriel graduated from UWRF with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1996 and her M.S.E. in social studies. She is now currently teaching social studies at Hudson High School. She lives in Hudson with her husband Barry and their two children, Sydney, 4, and Caden, 1.