Two weeks ago, Southern Miss Athletic Director Bill McGillis entered what has become familiar territory for him since he came to USM from the University of South Florida.
He was tasked with once again having to fill a head coaching vacancy, this time for the Golden Eagle softball team. Co-head coaches Kirsten Voak and Jon Malgradi jointly resigned after spending three years with the USM softball program.
“We appreciate coach Voak’s and coach Malgradi’s service and commitment to Southern Miss and the women in our softball program,” McGillis said following the announcement of their resignations. “They brought tremendous passion to the university and worked tirelessly to advance our program. Coach Voak and coach Malgradi are leaving a strong foundation for future success, and we wish them the very best as they move forward.”
McGillis immediately went to work with finding a new head coach to lead the program and was able to pry away his first target, Wendy Hogue, from William Carey. She was announced Aug. 27 as the new head coach of the Golden Eagles after an impressive 10-year stay at William Carey.
“We have hired a first-class person and terrific head coach in Wendy Hogue,” McGillis said. “She is a winner. Wendy’s leadership qualities, values, as well as her commitment to a positive student athlete experience and her softball expertise are qualities that make her a great match for Southern Miss. She has a proven track record of success and did an extraordinary job of building William Carey into a national power, including leading them to their pinnacle last season with a national runner-up finish at the 2014 NAIA Softball World Series.”
Hogue led the Lady Crusaders to six trips to the NAIA National Tournament, advancing to the Elite 8 on four occasions, including two trips to the Final Four. Her Lady Crusaders were nationally ranked for an incredible stretch that spanned over six years.
Hogue is ready to get started to turn the USM softball program into a national power of its own and has a deep emotional connection to the program.
“It has been a very emotional past few days. That emotion has turned to excitement. I am fired up and ready to get started,” Hogue said during her introductory press conference.
“When I think about Hattiesburg and Southern Miss softball, I think back to 1999. The very first Southern Miss softball game I ever went to – Courtney Blades, Kenya Peters, Chrystal Stevens. There was an excitement that was around not just softball, but Southern Miss softball. I am excited to finally be a part of that.”
Her experience and track record should help her turn around a softball program that has gone just 49-106 in the past three seasons under the lead of Voak and Malgradi. It could be an uphill battle for Hogue, but is a battle that she is more than equipped to take on.