Last weekend, new Western Illinois University Coach Alisa Goler and her Leathernecks softball squad started the season with a 3-1 record in the DePaul Dome Tournament in Rosemont, Illinois. The weekend highlight was a stunning 8-7 victory over DePaul after trailing 7-1 heading into the seventh inning.
Goler was named Head Softball Coach in June 2020, after the 2020 season was stopped due to the pandemic. She is the fourth head coach in WIU history.
An outstanding player at the University of Georgia, Goler's name is all over the school's record books and leader boards. The three-time All-American set records for home runs (58), runs batted in (236), walks (184), slugging percentage (.686), sacrifice flies (tied at 12), multiple home run games (9) and grand slams (4). Her 184 walks set the SEC record, while ranking seventh nationally. Goler was also a four-time All-Southeast Region selection, a three-time All-SEC honoree, a 2009 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year finalist and a member of the 2009 Women's College World Series All-Tournament team.
A native of Frankfort, Illinois, Goler was drafted by her home area Chicago Bandits in the third round of the 2011 National Pro Fastpitch draft. She proceeded to be named the 2011 NPF Rookie of the Year, while clubbing a league-leading 11 home runs. Goler spent four seasons delighting Bandit Nation with her play, before departing for the Pennsylvania Rebellion.
During her seven seasons in the NPF, Goler had already started her coaching journey. Goler began her coaching career as the hitting coach at Roosevelt University. A three year stint (2016-2018) followed at Syracuse as the recruiting coordinator and hitting and infield coach. After that, she was an assistant coach at Penn State.
In naming Goler the head coach, WIU Director of Athletics Danielle Surprenant said, “Her passion for student-athlete success, both on and off the field, quickly became evident during the search process. Alisa is an accomplished player and coach, and I look forward to watching her lead the Leathernecks to the next level.”
For starters, that next level would be winning consistently. The Leathernecks have played around the .440 level over the last 16 seasons. Goler is bringing an impressive resume of winning and is expected to continue that trend with the Leathernecks.
Although last weekend started with a 3-1 loss to Valparaiso, the Leathernecks rebounded to beat Loyola-Chicago twice, 1-0 and 6-3, before entering Sunday's game against tournament host DePaul.
Sunday's game was scoreless through three innings. DePaul scored one in the fourth, which WIU answered in the top of the fifth. DePaul came right back and plated five in the bottom of the fifth and added one more in the sixth to make it 7-1 going into the last inning. Six WIU runs later and a scoreless bottom of the seventh brought the game into extra innings, where WIU scored one and held DePaul scoreless to steal the win.
It doesn't get much more exciting than that. I don't ever recall seeing that big of a comeback that late in a game. Making it even more impressive is it being only the fourth game of the season for WIU. Plus these athletes are so young. Of course, they have all probably played many years of ball, but to have the composure and maturity to battle back like that speaks volumes on the attitude of this team. That leads right back to Coach Goler.
I knew Goler from her days with the Chicago Bandits. Actually, she was one of my first interviews with the Bandits.
Earlier this week, seven years later, I had the opportunity to interview Goler again. Goler talked about thinking like a coach while playing pro ball, working with her pitching coach, taking over the WIU program, and much more, including the big weekend series.
I also had to ask Goler about her bobblehead. Much to my surprise and amusement, her bobblehead was actually on a shelf behind her. I gleefully told her I also own one, thanks to Bandit Nation's Kevin Mooney after I had searched for many years.
I thoroughly enjoyed this interview and hope to revisit Goler as the season develops. I'd like to get her thoughts on a few other softball topics, as well as progress reports on the Leathernecks. I also hope to see Goler and the Leathernecks on Saturday, May 8 when they come to Chicago for a doubleheader against DePaul, if fans or media are allowed at that time.
It really has been a pleasure seeing Goler's success over the years. WIU picked a winner and I have no doubt she will turn the Leathernecks into consistent winners.
The Leathernecks are scheduled to return to action on Friday, February 19 with a doubleheader against Bradley in Peoria, Illinois. I'll be following the Leathernecks and providing recurring coverage here all season .
Thank you to Coach Goler for her time and consideration. Thanks also to Graduate Assistant-Athletic Communications Keion Robinson for coordinating the interview