A familiar face will be taking the reins of the Jacksonville University softball program as Erica Ayers will lead the Dolphins in 2018.
"Erica is the right person to step in as head coach of our softball program at Jacksonville University," said Athletic Director Alex Ricker-Gilbert. "Her experience is vast, and she is ready for the opportunity. The future for our softball program is bright and I couldn't be more excited for Erica and our student-athletes."
Ayers came on staff in 2016 as an assistant under former head coach Jennifer Steele and immediately made an impact, primarily working with the Dolphins' defensive efforts. A 17-year coaching veteran, her defensive efforts saw the team drop its error total from 100 to just 62 while its hitting improved from .240 to .274 in just two seasons. Since arriving at JU, six Dolphins have garnered All-ASUN Conference Team honors, along with an ASUN Scholar-Athlete of the Year and CoSIDA All-District Selection.
"I would like to thank Alex Ricker-Gilbert and his staff for the tremendous opportunity and privilege to lead this program," said Ayers. "I believe wholeheartedly in the vision that President Tim Cost, [Sr. Vice President of University & Academic Affairs] Donnie Horner and Alex have for JU Athletics and the University as a whole. I owe Jen Steele a thank you as well for believing I could help her build this program two years ago and continuing to believe in me now. A wonderful foundation has been set and I am beyond excited to see how far we can go."
The Dolphins won 30 games in 2017 – tying the most wins in four years and becoming just the sixth team in the program's history to win at least that many. JU also finished the season eighth in the nation and set the school's single season stolen bases record with 113, with help from its .355 on-base percentage and going deep into counts to draw 146 walks on the year.
Ayers came to JU after six seasons at Georgetown. Her resume is decorated by 13 All Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) selections, one CAA Rookie of the Year, and one CAA Player of the Year at George Mason, and nine All Big East honorees with the Hoyas.
Directly responsible for the Hoyas' defense and hitters, Ayers coached nine All Big East selections during her six years on the Hilltop. In 2013, Georgetown defeated the highest ranked opponent in program history with an upset over No. 8 Louisville, set a new school record for team fielding percentage, and made its first postseason appearance in both program and Big East history. The 2014 season was record breaking, as the Hoyas made their second consecutive trip to the postseason and finished tied for second in the Big East. The Hoyas also set new records for run total, batting average, and wins during the 2014 campaign.
"I have had the distinct honor and privilege of working with Erica for many years. Her passion, drive, and knowledge of the game is second to none," added Pat Conlon, head softball coach at Georgetown. "I can't think of another person more deserving. I am excited to see the impact that Erica has on the Jacksonville Athletics Department and her student-athletes."
Prior to her time at Georgetown, Ayers spent nine seasons as an assistant coach at her alma mater, George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va. Working closely with the Patriot's infielders and hitters, Ayers helped coach 13 All Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) selections, one CAA Rookie of the Year, and one CAA Player of the Year. Additionally, Ayers has helped develop two Virginia Players of the Year, two first team All Mid-Atlantic Region players and two second team All Region selections.
Ayers played at George Mason from 1997-2000. She started 189 games in the middle infield and finished her career with a .286 batting average, 25 doubles and 66 RBI. During her senior season in 2000, Ayers led the team with a .343 batting average, and was second on the squad with 25 RBI. She currently holds the Patriots' single-season record for games played (63) and times being hit-by-pitch (16), is third in assists (434) and games started (211), is fourth in at-bats (594), and fifth in hits (170).
The Ashland, Va., native graduated from George Mason in 2000 with a bachelor's of sciences in health, fitness and recreational resources. She earned her masters in exercise, fitness and health promotion from GMU in 2008.