Longwood adds Oregon assistant softball coach

Published 5:16 pm Friday, June 25, 2021

Longwood softball head coach Dr. Megan Brown announced the addition of former Utah State standout and Oregon assistant coach Jo Koons to her coaching staff as an assistant coach.

Koons comes to Longwood following a two-year stint as a volunteer assistant with national powerhouse Oregon, which she helped lead to a 40-win season, a No. 3 national ranking and an NCAA Regional berth in 2021. That was one of two high-major stops for the Chico, Calif., native, who began her coaching career as a volunteer assistant at Stanford in 2016 and has also held assistant posts at Utah State and Colorado Christian, along with a head coach stint at Lassen College.

“We are so excited to welcome coach Koons to our staff,” said Brown, who led Longwood to a third-place Big South finish in her first season as head coach in 2021.

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“Her knowledge, experience and expertise checked everything we were looking for to continue to build upon the amazing legacy of Longwood softball. Her experience with top-25 programs and in top conferences will be invaluable as we continue to pursue the highest levels of softball. We are thrilled to have her on board and are looking forward to getting her on the field.”

With experience as a head coach and assistant coach at multiple levels of college athletics, Koons has overseen all aspects of the college game, from instructing hitters, fielders and pitchers, to recruiting, scouting and film review and general quality control of a program. At Longwood, she will step into the dugout of one of the winningest programs in Big South softball history as the Lancers enter the 2022 season winners of five of the past eight Big South championships and on a run of eight consecutive top-three Big South finishes.

At Oregon, Koons oversaw one of the nation’s best defensive units and produced back-to-back top-20 fielding percentage rankings in 2020 and 2021. Her 2020 group had the nation’s second-highest clip, committing just eight errors en route to a .986 percentage, while last year’s 40-win squad posted a .977 percentage to finish 15th in the nation. Two of Koons’ infielders were named to the PAC 12 All-Defensive Team, with the middle-infield tandem of freshman shortstop Alyssa Brito and junior second baseman Allee Bunker both earning spots on that 12-player squad.

Along with shouldering primary defensive coaching duties at Oregon, Koons also helped with a Ducks’ offense that hit .290 with a .360 on base percentage and a .459 slugging clip – all among the top five in the Pac 12 last season. Five Oregon players were named to the All-PAC 12 team, including senior outfielder Haley Cruse who finished among the league’s top five in batting average, hits, doubles and stolen bases.

“First, I would like to thank coach Brown and Michelle Meadows for this tremendous opportunity to serve on staff at Longwood,” Koons said. “I am honored, humbled and extremely grateful to start this next chapter alongside the amazing people at Longwood University. I couldn’t be more excited to get on the field and work with our student-athletes. We will continue to grow the championship culture here while enhancing the student-athlete experience every day. I’m excited to see growth both on and off the field that will make both our university and fans proud.”

“Lastly, I would like to thank [Oregon head coach Melyssa Lombardi] at the University of Oregon. I am thankful for her belief in me and her guidance throughout these past two years. It was a gift to be alongside and coach their incredible student-athletes together.”

Koons also helped Oregon assemble a pair of stout recruiting classes, including a 2020 group that was ranked No. 9 in the nation by FLO Softball and a 2021 contingent that features four top-25 recruits as ranked by Extra Innings Softball. Among those signees were PAC 12 All-Freshman Team selections Brito, who started 53 games as a true freshman, and outfielder Hannah Delgado, who hit .302 in 41 starts during her inaugural campaign.

Alongside Lombardi, Koons helped Oregon produce a two-year record of 62-19, including a 40-17 record in 2021 and a 22-2 record during the COVID-shortened 2020 season.

“Jo Koons has had an incredible impact on our program,” Lombardi, who has led the Ducks to an 84-49 record in her three seasons at the helm, said. “She is able to connect on many levels with her student-athletes, allowing them to reach their full potential. Jo’s ability to teach the fundamentals produced two of the best years defensively in school history. I cannot thank her enough for all her hard work and wish her the best in this great opportunity with Longwood.”

Koons’ time with the Ducks followed a one-year stint as assistant coach at her alma mater, Utah State, under her former college coach, Steve Johnson, in 2019, and three separate coaching stints as head coach of Lassen College in 2018, assistant coach at Colorado Christian in 2017 and volunteer assistant coach at Stanford in 2016.

“Longwood and the players there are extremely lucky to have someone like Jo coming into their program,” said Johnson, the second-winningest coach in Utah State softball history. “She’s a fantastic person and a great young coach who knows all aspects of the game. She’s going to be great for their program.

“As a player, she was always the first one in and the last one out every time. As a coach, Jo has learned from a variety of coaching backgrounds to give her a diverse skillset. She fits well into Longwood’s mission and will do a great job with coach Brown.”

Koons delved into the coaching world immediately after graduating from Utah State in 2015, where she was a four-year starter who appeared in more than 200 games and started 198 of those. A utility player for the Aggies, she logged starts at all nine positions in the field during her career and finished her career ranked among Utah State’s all-time top 10 with 10 career triples and 65 career walks. Also a two-year team captain, she ended her career making 110 consecutive starts in her final two seasons, including a 2015 campaign in which she tied for fourth place on Utah State’s single-season lists with 36 runs and 26 walks.

Primarily a shortstop and top-of-the-lineup hitter, Koons hit .269 with a .340 on base percentage for her career. Her 65 walks compared to just 34 strikeouts in her four seasons, and she amassed more free passes than punchouts in each of her final three seasons.

Since her first coaching stop at Stanford in 2016, Koons’ student-athletes have also earned a number of academic recognitions. Among those were six All-Academic PAC 12 citations at Stanford in 2016, three All-Academic Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference picks at Colorado Christian in 2017, and six All-Academic Mountain West Conference honorees at Utah State in 2019.

Koons holds a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies from Utah State, which she earned in 2015, and a Master of Arts in organizational leadership, which she earned from Colorado Christian in 2018.

Alongside Brown, Koons will lead a veteran-laden Longwood team into the 2022 season. The squad returns all but two starters from 2021, including reigning Big South Pitcher of the Year Sydney Backstrom, All-Big South performers Mason Basdikis, Nia Green and Sydney Jacobsen, three-year starter Alexis Wayland, Big South All-Freshman Team outfielder Leah Powell and starting designated player Madison Blair.