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COLLEGE SOFTBALL: Duncan excited to be back with Augie coaching post

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When Lori Duncan stepped away from coaching softball full-time five years ago, she said she knew the timing was right with her young family.

And now as she jumps back into the game with a new position as Augustana College softball coach, she is confident that this is also a perfect time.

“Coaching is something that I know that I’m skilled at and have a way with it,” said Duncan, who has vast coaching experience from high school to the NCAA Division I level. “I just kind of had it on the shelf there for a bit, but I was still paying attention to the sport and was involved with it in multiple different ways, but realizing that if you have a skill that you can’t let it collect dust.

“This is kind of a family decision and a family project. It’s time for my boys to see me in this light. ... They are at formidable ages (10 and 12) where I think it’s good for them to see mom take on a task like this.”

Perusing Duncan’s resume, it appears as if Augustana officials have found a bright light to lead the school’s softball program.

Duncan, who played at North Scott High School and coached at Pleasant Valley High School, also coached at LSU for three years and most recently spent time as a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Iowa.

The hall of fame player and coaching veteran replaces Kris Kistler who left the program after 23 years and a 566-355-3 overall record. She is the all-time winningest coach in Viking softball history, having led the Vikings to 16 20-win seasons and eight seasons with 30 or more victories.

Duncan can seemingly match those numbers. She left PV after a nine-year run that included a 254-108 mark and three top-three finishes at the state tournament. Her final season culminated with a state runner-up finish.

“Kris Kistler has a good group here for us,” Duncan said. “She really put a lot into this program the last couple of decades and we want to take care of it.”

So now it’s time for Duncan — who is pulling double-duty as she still teaches at PVHS as school officials scramble to fill her special education teaching position — to put her stamp on the Vikings.

Duncan said she likes what she has to work with, noting all 28 players in the program returned even after the late coaching change. She also was ecstatic to see her players gather and conduct a self-led practice on Monday so it didn’t count as one of the 16 fall contact days that coaches can have.

“I’m walking into a team with a lot of passion and we can work with that,” she said of the team she just met with on Tuesday after taking the reins last week. “… We’re very optimistic. With the talent we have and the assistant coaches we have, I think we can do some pretty cool things.”

Duncan said that two assistant coaches remained with the program — Dave Hebbeln and Jacob Bautista.

She is adding familiar names in Pleasant Valley High School coach Jose Lara (whom she said is keeping his PV position) and coaching veteran Joe Ambrose, along with New Zealander Karl Gollan, whom Duncan said is an All-World Cup men’s player who comes on as pitching coach.

The 46-year-old Duncan admits that her approach to coaching will mirror a Division I program with an approach she accrued while coaching at LSU and Iowa. That same concept worked well in the past for the men’s basketball program when Grey Giovanine used that process to build a dynasty.

“I guess it’s the only way I know,” Duncan said. “I ran my Pleasant Valley High School program like a Division I program.

“I’m sure there will be an adjustment for me, but my tactic as a coach is to coach the heart of an athlete instead of teaching them the game. I think that’s how you get a team willing to go the distance when you coach their heart.”

Duncan admitted that she is excited about getting back into the dugout and the future she can build.

“I see this as long-term for sure,” she said. “We want to lay the groundwork right and see where it leads.”


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