For many people who participate in sports at any level from little league to the pros, their sport is a way of life. They live, breathe, and die by their sport and that passion makes them successful. For PSUGA alumnus and Assistant Softball Coach Kelli Hall, coaching softball has always been her passion and doing it at her alma mater makes it that much more special for the McKeesport native.
“Playing on the team enhanced my team work skills and, in a way, my coaching skills,” said Hall. “Going to Penn State is a prideful experience for all students and I especially took pride in it. A lot of students may not get to coach the sport they love at the college they graduated from and I am extremely grateful.”
Hall played for PSUGA from 2012-2015 primarily as a first baseman where she hit .228 with 31 RBI over her four-year career. She also helped lead her team to their second all-time appearance in the Penn State University Athletic Conference playoffs in the 2013-2014 season where they eventually fell to PSU-Hazleton and PSU-Brandywine.
Making the playoffs in that 2014 season was one of the most prideful moments of Hall’s playing career at PSUGA. All the hard work from prior seasons and all the struggles they went through made it that much sweeter for Hall and her team when they finally accomplished the goal of making it to the PSUAC Tournament.
“Being that we hadn’t won many games, making it to the playoffs made me feel amazing,” said Hall. “I was proud of my team and myself and I wholeheartedly know that we could have won the whole thing. The whole journey was exciting and we had a lot of fun.”
Hall graduated from PSUGA in December of 2015 with her degree in Psychology. While her time as a student was done, her journey at PSUGA was only just beginning. After her senior year, the PSUGA Softball program took a hit. With not enough girls coming back for the 2015-2016 season, the program was forced to shut down for a year.
As a result of the rebuild, many of their talented players who were returning were forced to transfer to continue their softball careers. This is when Hall made her return to the softball program as an assistant coach alongside newly appointed head coach Victoria Blosser to help revitalize the program and get it going again from scratch.
“When we didn’t have a season, it was a sad time,” said Hall. “I felt for the girls who loved the game but were leaving because it was the best decision. After that we had to recruit big time. We attended a lot of tournaments, showcases and high school games. It’s not the easiest job in the world to recruit people into a struggling program but other girls believed in us and our vision.”
In that first year, Blosser and Hall brought in a recruiting class of eight girls anchored by two upperclassmen in Senior Shelby Bendick and Sophomore Courtney Shadd. That year’s team went above and beyond expectations finishing 12-12 including an 11-9 record in the PSUAC just barely missing a spot in the PSUAC Playoff tournament.
The success they saw that season was like a dream come true for Hall and the rest of the softball program. There was doubt that the softball program would ever be back to full strength, but Hall and Blosser defied the odds not only bringing the program back, but having it run at a high level.
“I feel like we were the underdogs,” said Hall. “No one thought we would turn everything around and we did. Building a whole new team is hard, and it’s a lot of work and adjustments but I believe Vickki and I are doing an amazing job. The program was struggling when we started, but now it has an extremely bright future.”
All of Hall’s and Blosser’s hard work came to fruition last season when they led their team to only their second appearance in the PSUAC Playoffs in the last 17 seasons. Their team broke program records finishing 16-10 overall and a program best 14-6 in conference play. They entered the tournament as the number three seed, but would fall to PSU-Beaver 6-1 in the first round ending their season.
Despite the loss, PSUGA softball now has a bright future with a talented core of players another year older. For Hall, her PSUGA Softball career has come full circle. After leading her team to the playoffs as a player in 2014, she now has brought that leadership to the dugout setting up her team for success for many years to come.
“I played all four years on the softball team and I loved it,” said Hall. “We had some really rough times and some good times as well. Now after last season’s success I feel like all of our hard work is finally paying off and [the program] is only going to go up from here.”
Along with her assistant coach duties at PSUGA, Hall also works as Direct Care Staff at a local medical facility and uses the accountability and timeliness she learned at PSUGA to help her in her everyday life. Whether it is for sports or for a quality education, Hall recommends PSUGA for anyone who is looking for a quality education and a chance to succeed.
“I would tell a future student or student-athlete to come [To PSUGA],” said Hall. “There are a lot of benefits to coming to PSUGA and regardless of what anyone says we all get the same Penn State degree. Once you graduate the perks continue because everyone has either gone to Penn State or is a fan. You can get the small college feel then transfer to main campus and get the big college experience with the 2+2 Program.”
The PSUGA campus has become more then a college for Hall, it has become a home away from home. She is extremely proud of where the campus and the softball program is going and she is more then proud to have went to and now to be working at PSUGA.
“The Penn State Community is like a huge family and you definitely won’t regret coming here,” said Hall. “WE ARE!!”