Missouri wins award for third time in four years
Melissa Tucci begins her fifth year as an assistant coach for the University of Missouri softball team and continues to work primarily with the Mizzou outfielders.
Last season, two Mizzou outfielders earned All-America honors, as Rhea Taylor earned recognition for the third time in her career while Ashley Fleming was named an All-American for the first time as she was named to the second team. Missouri's starting outfielders - Lisa Simmons, Taylor and Fleming - combined for a fielding percentage of .982 over the course of the season.
During the 2010 season, Tiger outfielders posted a fielding percentage of .973, improving on the fielding percentage set in 2009. Rhea Taylor picked up the second All-America honor of her career to cap off her best collegiate season yet. On top of that, Taylor and Ashley Fleming were selected to the All-Midwest Region team. The honor was the third of Taylor's career and the first of Fleming's. The duo also earned All-Big 12 honors, as both got picked to the first team.
In 2009, Missouri's outfielders played solid defense, notching a combined .971 fielding percentage and helping the Tigers to their first Women's College World Series appearance in 15 years. Two Tigers, Micaela Minner and 2008 All-American Rhea Taylor were awarded All-Midwest Region accolades, the third such honor for Minner and second for Taylor. Taylor was also named to the All-Big 12 first team in part by her .984 fielding percentage. Beginning postseason play on May 9 at the 13th annual Big 12 Championships, the Tiger outfield made only two errors in 11 games, good enough for a .946 fielding percentage.
In her first year with the program, Tucci coached two outfielders, Leanne Bowers and Minner, to National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-Region honors and two, Julie Silver and Minner, to All-Big 12 accolades. Under her guidance, Tucci helped take the Missouri softball program to a new level of excellence. Together the trio recorded a .972 fielding percentage with only six errors between them.
Returning for the 2008 campaign, Silver was the lone Tiger with significant playing experience in the outfield. Newcomers Rhea Taylor and Kathryn Poet were quickly worked into the lineup and took their place in the outfield. Taylor, Missouri's starting centerfielder for all 64 games, managed a .905 fielding percentage, while rightfielder Poet finished her freshman season at .967. Together, Missouri's outfield combined for a .964 fielding percentage, Missouri's best end of the season mark since 2005 (.968).
Tucci came to the Tiger program from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where she served as head softball coach beginning in 2001. As head coach, Tucci was in charge of all phases of the college's NCAA Division I program.
Tucci brought an extensive list of personal accolades to the University of Missouri. In her time at Marist, Tucci turned a Red Fox squad that was 11-43 in 2004 into a conference champion in 2006 with an impressive 33-11 record. For its efforts during the 2006 season, Tucci's team also made the program's first-ever NCAA tournament appearance, where they faced, and ultimately lost, to No.1 seeded University of Arizona. The 2006 Marist squad ended its season ranked eighth nationally in home runs per game, 19th in slugging percentage, 21st in win-loss percentage and 21st in team earned run average. Individual rankings included eighth in runs scored, ninth in home runs per game, ninth in earned run average, 10th in slugging percentage and 15th in RBI.
In recognition of her effective coaching style and her team's results, Tucci was designated the 2006 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Coach of the Year. Two of her players were also honored as MAAC Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year at season's end.
Over the course of her five-season stint as head coach of the Red Foxes, Tucci had a number of players earn individual honors. She produced 11 All-MAAC players and 10 All-MAAC Players of the Week. During her tenure at Marist, one of Tucci's players also slugged her way into top 10 NCAA batting history. Since 2004, eight players were also selected for the USA Athletes International Competition where they played in England, Italy and Australia.
In addition to their efforts on the diamond, Tucci's players proved extremely active in the classroom as well. In 2004, the Red Fox softball team was ranked third nationally by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) after compiling a cumulative 3.528 grade-point average. Nine of Tucci's players were awarded Academic All-America honors and 33 were honored as all-conference academic players. A number of her players were also named ESPN/CoSIDA Academic All-District Team members.
Tucci was just as impressive a player on the Red Fox squad during her undergraduate career. While on the team she received MAAC All-Conference and All-Tournament honors as well as weekly honors in NCAA Division I softball. She also served on the Captain's Council for two years.
Tucci graduated with a degree in business administration with concentrations in finance and marketing from Marist in 2001. She earned her Master's of Business Administration there four years later.
Community service has been important to the Tigers' assistant coach as well. Before leaving Marist to take on her new position at Missouri, Tucci had been a volunteer for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Special Olympics since 2001 and a mentor at the Children's Home of Poughkeepsie since 2002.
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