The Melyssa Lombardi era officially began as she was introduced to fans and media members at Jane Sanders Stadium on Monday. For the first time this decade, the Ducks will be led by someone other than Mike White.
Lombardi, a 21-year assistant coach at Oklahoma with four national championships on her résumé, will be the 12th coach in program history, but will look to be the first coach to win the Women’s College World Series with the Ducks.
“My standard doesn’t change, I expect to compete every year for championships,” Lombardi said. “You see all the Pac-12 championships that have been won, and the trips to the World Series. But what I would like to do is to be able to enhance what is here. Going to Oklahoma City and winning national championships, I think those are things I can bring to Oregon.”
Lombardi was a hot commodity in the collegiate softball world, meaning she essentially was able to wait for the opportunity she saw as the best fit. After visiting, the town, stadium and home-field advantage created by the Oregon fans helped make the decision.
“For me, in order to leave Oklahoma, it was going to take a really special place.” Lombardi said. “I think this position is a tremendous opportunity for me and my new staff.”
Lombardi has already been involved in a game at Jane Sanders Stadium when Oregon defeated the Sooners 5-0 last season. Although the result was not what Lombardi wanted, the memory remained.
“I walked into a lion’s den,” Lombardi said. “I felt like we walked in and walked out. It was that quick. Even though it didn’t go our way, I loved every minute of it. I could see myself here. When this position opened, it was something that had my interest because I could see the success and what we could do here in Oregon.”
The Ducks of course made it to Oklahoma City the last two seasons, and five times overall under White, who went 435-111-1 with five Pac-12 titles. White was hired in the midst of Rob Mullens’ first year as athletic director, making this the first time he had to navigate the softball coaching world for Oregon.
“Obviously when we set out to find the next leader, we were looking for somebody with a tremendous track record to build on the foundation that’s already here,” Mullens said. “Everywhere we turned to the experts in the college softball world, we kept hearing one name. That one name was Missy Lombardi.”
Ultimately, the goal is to do what the previous 11 coaches could not, winning a national title, and Lombardi knows the type of mindset required to win that last game.
“It’s a long process,” Lombardi said. “They’ve got to be willing to grind and still play well when their bodies are tired. … To me, usually the last team that’s standing is the team that really knows how to be mentally tough.”
Oregon lost seniors Gwen Svekis, DJ Sanders, Lauren Lindvall and Jenna Lilley. Returners Megan Kleist, Cherish Burkes, Shannon Rhodes, Shaye Bowden and Lauren Burke were all in attendance at Lombardi’s press conference.
“We’re really excited about the new era,” Rhodes said. “I think [Lombardi] is really going to bring out the best in us.
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