Assistant Softball Coach Jenna Roberts talks about what brought her to NIU and what it means to coach here in DeKalb.
The seventh head coach in program history, Christina Sutcliffe, a native of Crown Point, Ind., brings 11 years of collegiate coaching experience and an intimate knowledge of the Mid-American Conference having spent the last seven seasons as an assistant coach at Miami University.
"I definitely believe the MAC has become a strong contender within the softball nation, not only in the region but we're doing good things nationally," she said. "That was definitely a key to coming to Northern Illinois. Our conference, top to bottom, is very competitive."
She began her tenure in Oxford, Ohio, as a pitching coach before spending the last six seasons working with RedHawk hitters and catchers. During her stay at Miami, the Redhawks won MAC Tournament titles in 2009 and 2012, advancing to the NCAA Tournament both years. In 2012, Miami complied 41 wins including 16 conference victories, both school records, and defeated No. 7 seeded Tennessee, 1-0, in its opening round contest of the NCAA Tournament.
RedHawk hitters flourished under Sutcliffe. In 2011, Miami hit for a .289 average tying the 1991 squad for highest team batting average in school history with four players hitting over .300 and eight hitting over .290. Freshman Kirstie Fehrenbach led the RedHawks with a .340 average and earned a spot of the MAC All-Freshmen Team.
Miami's catchers made great strides under Sutcliffe's tutelage as well. One of her top pupils, Jenna McGivney, threw out 55 percent of all base runners attempting to steal and was among the national leaders with eight pickoffs in 2011. In 2010, McGivney threw out 64 percent of base stealers, while picking off seven other runners. McGivney's successor, Kayla Ledbetter, earned Second Team All-MAC honors and was named to the league's all-tournament team in 2012.
In 2006, the Miami pitching staff, which included Courtney Salmon and Kelly Cabana, benefitted from Sutcliffe's expertise. Salmon, who ranks second on Miami's all-time strikeout list, ended the 2006 campaign with 125 K's. Cabana ranked among the Top 10 in the MAC in numerous pitching categories following the '06 season.
Sutcliffe went to Miami after three seasons as head coach at Rhode Island. Sutcliffe compiled a 42-82 overall record, including a 12-25 mark in the Atlantic 10. She posted her best season in 2003 when she led the Rams to a 20-22 record, 7-8 in conference play, and narrowly missed qualifying for the A-10 Tournament. During her tenure, she helped oversee a $68,000 renovation of the Rams' softball field in 2004 that included an overhaul of the playing surface, drainage and irrigation systems.
Sutcliffe began her collegiate coaching career as an assistant at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in 2002. The Lady Mocs finished that season with a 44-15 record and the Southern Conference Tournament title. Working primarily with the pitching staff, the Lady Mocs posted a 1.50 earned run average in her lone season at Chattanooga. She mentored SoCon Tournament Most Valuable Player and all-conference performer Beth Alexander to a 25-7 mark with a 1.05 ERA, 22 complete games and 197 strikeouts.
In addition to her collegiate softball experience, Sutcliffe also served as head softball coach at Boynton Beach High School in 2001.
A four-year letterwinner at Florida Atlantic University from 1997-2001, Sutcliffe was a member of five Trans America Athletic Conference Tournament Championship teams. Sutcliffe, who redshirted her sophomore season, compiled a 67-23 record in the pitcher's circle with 25 shutouts and two no-hitters. She earned TAAC Tournament Most Valuable Player honors in 1997. Sutcliffe was a four-year First Team All-TAAC selection and was named to the Academic All-TAAC Team four times as well.
Sutcliffe received her bachelor's degree in mathematics in 2000 and her master's in education in 2001 from FAU.