The Oregon softball team went through three stages of emotions following Mike White’s departure for Texas.

The first was disappointment that the coach who recruited each player on the roster was leaving for the Longhorns following yet another Pac-12 championship and Women’s College World Series appearance.

“I got recruited to come here and be coached by Mike White, who is such a great person and has such a great personality, so to see him go was a little sad,” outfielder Shannon Rhodes said.

 

There were 12 days of uncertainty while athletic director Rob Mullens and deputy athletic director Lisa Peterson conducted a coaching search without leaking any names.

“I don’t think anyone was real concerned because we trust Lisa and Rob to make the right decision and keep the team in mind when choosing a head coach,” UO pitcher Megan Kleist said.

Finally, Melyssa Lombardi was announced as Oregon's coach last week and then introduced at a press conference Monday that featured a handful of current and former Ducks in attendance.

“We are really excited about the new era and having coach Lombardi come in here with all her accolades,” Rhodes said. “We are ready for it.”

Lombardi called each of her players before meeting them when she arrived in Eugene.

“The reception has been wonderful,” Lombardi said. “I can’t say enough about our athletes. I haven’t even had a team meeting with them but I can’t wait to meet with them because I am so impressed with how they handled all of this.”

Lombardi said no player told her they intended to transfer following the coaching change.

“They came here for their coach and then all of a sudden things changed for them and I don’t think anyone likes change, but it is something you have to embrace,” Lombardi said. “One thing that impressed me, they could have easily panicked and gone their separate ways, but they did a great job sticking together.”

 

Lombardi’s inaugural team could feature six seniors and five juniors along with three sophomores and six freshmen who signed to play for White.

“One thing I love is that this is a veteran program that has done a lot of great things,” she said. “I don’t have to come in and change a whole lot with them. They are great athletes to begin with so just giving them something different that maybe they did not get in the past will go a long way for us.”

Oregon will likely be a preseason top 10 team next year listed among the Pac-12 favorites once again led by all-Americans Kleist and Miranda Elish on the mound. The Ducks lose four starters in the lineup, but return three of their top four hitters in Haley Cruse, Alexis Mack and Rhodes.

“We have a chip on our shoulder because people think just because coach White left, now we have to go prove ourselves,” Rhodes said. “I don’t think that at all. I think we got it. Coach Lombardi is a great addition to the team who will bring out the best in us.”

Lombardi is working to hire a staff as the players prepare for an offseason strength and conditioning program.

“I think we are going to hit it off right from the start and not stop,” Lombardi said. “I appreciate how the players reached out to me and how supportive they have been throughout this process. This is a tough process for them and they have handled it extremely well. I look forward to creating great relationships with them on and off the field.”