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After Consecutive Years Of Success, UMBC Still Trends Upward

chris kuhlmeyer photo courtesy of umbc athletics.jpg
(Photo courtesy of UMBC Athletics)

Before Chris Kuhlmeyer’s arrival as the head softball coach at UMBC during the summer of 2018, the program had experienced some challenging years.

The team was coming off a 12-31 season, its fourth straight losing year. But, since Kuhlmeyer joined, the program has put the tough times behind it, winning the America East Conference Tournament Championship all four times it’s been held during Kuhlmeyer’s tenure.

Prior to joining the Retrievers, Kuhlmeyer coached at Miami (Ohio), where he was an assistant for two seasons, and before that, he was the head coach at Belmont. He also spent parts of his early coaching career as an assistant for Wichita State, LSU, Baylor and Samford. At Belmont, he was the program’s winningest coach in its history, so he understood what it took to help a team compete at a high level.

Kuhlmeyer’s coaching philosophy is centered around the student-athletes, and providing the best possible experience for them. He puts a priority on his student-athletes’ academics, allowing them to maximize their experience, including assisting them in building their preferred class schedules and being flexible with the team’s practice schedule.

“We just try to do all the things we can to give them the best experience we can, on top of taking our game seriously and competing for championships,” Kuhlmeyer said.

There was a lot of work for Kuhlmeyer to do when he arrived at UMBC, but his first task was instilling confidence in his new players.

“When I got the job, during my first team meeting I brought in statistics, I brought in their schedule from the previous year with scores and everything and I looked at (the team) and was like, ‘You guys were so close to winning at least 20-something games, if not more. The one thing I feel like we need to focus on as a program is bringing the joy back into the game for everyone,’” Kuhlmeyer said. “At the end of the day, you want everyone to have joy in the game as much as possible and to feel like they’re a part of the program and that they’re contributing.”

The Retrievers quickly found some of that confidence after a strong start in 2019, winning the second game of their season over Murray State and nearly defeating NC State.

“There were (still) some ups and downs throughout that year,” Kuhlmeyer said. “We had some games where you could tell some of the old mentalities came back that they didn’t think they could win. But, as the season went on, we just kept (saying), ‘It’s not about where we’re at right now, it’s about where we’re at in late April and early May and we just need to build, no matter if we win or lose.’”

Once May rolled around, all that mattered was one week to win the conference tournament and represent the conference in Regionals.

“That (mindset) gave them hope and confidence, and as the season went on, you saw the (team) playing better and better,” Kuhlmeyer said. “That led into the conference tournament and we rolled right through that.”

In a program that has roster turnover every year, it’s not easy to consistently finish atop the conference and compete for championships. Next season, there will be 11 freshmen on Kuhlmeyer's squad, which will likely create some healthy competition.

Looking ahead to next season, Kuhlmeyer expects some new leaders to step up on his team. He calls pitcher Kya Matter “one of the top pitchers in the conference” and sees the junior stepping up after the loss of standout Courtney Coppersmith.

Among other candidates to step up in 2024, Kuhlmeyer mentions Ashley Della Guardia, Lyndsey Evix and Macy Granzow, who will look to take the program to the next level as seniors.

“We have a lot of upperclassmen who do not want to hand the title over to another school,” Kuhlmeyer said. “They’re going to step up and make the program their own.”

As UMBC prepares for the 2024 season, the team has some lofty goals on its mind.

“We don’t want to settle for just winning the conference,” Kuhlmeyer said. “We want the opportunity to compete and give ourselves a chance on Championship Sunday to earn a spot in the Super Regionals.”


Courtney Coppersmith Leading On And Off The Field At UMBC

UMBC's Courtney Coppersmith has been open about her mental health struggles in order to help others off the field.

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