Kalafatis adds a first to Cal U's Hall of Fame
If attending a college, learning a trade from that school and using that for one's vocation is what continuing one's education is all about, Kalafatis indeed found Cal U gold in the Mon Valley.
Originally from Bethel Park, Kalafatis got involved in softball after her lifelong friend, Shannon McHugh, forced her to accompany her in youth softball. Two decades and three schools later, Kalafatis is in her fifth year as the head coach at nationally respected Ohio State University. As of the Easter holiday, the Buckeye softball team owned a fine 33-12 overall record and 7-3 mark in the Big Ten Conference.
Certainly this lady has come a long way from her days as the Cal U catcher who would lay her equipment on top of a garbage can in between innings.
Though she earned bachelor's (business administration) and master's degrees (geography and regional planning) from Cal U, coaching became a way of life for Kalafatis and she started the Vulcans' superb softball tradition.
A two-time all-conference and one-time all-region catcher, Kalafatis became the Lady Vulcans head softball coach in 1989 after serving as an assistant to Pat Guerriero in 1988.
In five years, Kalafatis guided the Vulcans to five straight PSAC-West championships and a 175-53-1 cumulative record. The five division titles were the first championships of any kind for Cal U softball. In 1991, Cal U went 47-11 overall and stopped Bloomsburg's eight-year run of PSAC titles by thumping the Huskies 6-1 in the state championship game. This was the first PSAC championship ever won by a Cal U women's athletic team. Her 1990 team went 36-10 overall and made the program's first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division II tournament. This spring, under eight-year Cal U softball head coach Rick Bertagnolli, the Vulcans are striving for a 13th straight PSAC-West title, 12th straight NCAA tourney appearance and sixth straight conference championship. Bertagnolli led Cal U softball to consecutive NCAA championships in 1997 and 1998. Four of the starters on the 1997 team were Kalafatis recruits.
Kalafatis is proud of what Bertagnolli and her old team have accomplished. 'I am very proud of Rick and what his teams have been able to accomplish,' she said. 'I would like to think that I helped start the foundation. Becoming a consistent winner is a process. I thought our 1993 team was of national championship caliber but we underachieved in the postseason. I am proud to have come from a program that has won two national titles.'
Kalafatis left Cal U after the 1993 team went 34-9 overall and was the head coach at the University of Akron for three seasons. She compiled a 98-62 cumulative record with the Lady Zips before landing the Ohio State job in 1997.
Not only has Ohio State steadily improved under Kalafatis on the field, the Buckeyes more importantly have been strong in the classroom. Last spring, OSU ranked 27th nationally in a National Fastpitch Coaching Association poll rating academic achievement. Thirteen of her players last year earned Academic All-Big Ten honors and the team grade-point average was 3.15.
'Regardless of where you coach, it is the coaching staff's job to not only guide these athletes on the field but also in the classroom,' Kalafatis said. 'The players must achieve at the highest level academically and athletically.'
During her induction speech, Kalafatis reflected on her days at Cal U and the fun her teams had. She recounted numerous pranks and jokes played on her by former players. As the three tables of softball players roared with laughter, it was evident that there was plenty of fun that went along with the championships. Kalafatis also thanked Jan McConnell, former Cal U athletic director, and Dr. Paul Burd, current vice president of student development, for giving her the chance to be a head coach at the age of 23 and the support to recruit quality players.
'It was tough at times to take over a program that I had played with and I might have missed some things early on but at the same time it helped me learn quickly. The administration was always supportive, which is crucial. Experiencing the success we had at Cal U was something I was able to carry over to Akron and we're establishing that confidence and winning manner at Ohio State.'
Fittingly, Kalafatis was the first female head coach inducted into Cal U's Hall of Fame.
'I was very surprised and humbled to be selected,' said Kalafatis. 'Life is so full speed ahead, especially when you are in the midst of a season. But getting selected into the Hall of Fame made me start thinking of the old days and remembering the good people that I worked with. Trophies or plaques are great honors but it is the memories and friendships from my days at Cal U that mean the most to me.'