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Duluth's Trachsel has Gopher softball back in NCAA tournament

Minnesota softball coach Jamie Trachsel talks with a player during their game against Nebraska at the University of Minnesota Jane Sage Cowles Stadium in Minneapolis, Saturday, April 21. Craig Lassig / Forum News Service1 / 2
Minnesota softball coach Jamie Trachsel shakes hands with Nebraska head coach Rhonda Revelle at the University of Minnesota Jane Sage Cowles Stadium in Minneapolis, Saturday, April 21. Craig Lassig / Forum News Service2 / 2

MINNEAPOLIS—Duluth native Jamie Trachsel got a call from University of Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle last July.

Trachsel, then softball coach at Iowa State, was recruiting at the Iowa state tournament. It was loud, so the call went to voicemail, but she called him back first chance she got.

"And it just went from there," Trachsel said.

Two days later she was on campus, and a couple days after that she was offered the Gophers head coaching job. It didn't take her long to accept.

"I'm just grateful for this opportunity and for Mark's confidence and belief in me," Trachsel said.

So far, so good.

No. 23 Minnesota (39-15) opens NCAA Division I tournament play against No. 36 Texas (32-24) at 8 p.m. May 18 in Seattle, aired live on ESPN.

Trachsel guided Minnesota to its third straight Big Ten Tournament title on Sunday, May 13.

"Every situation and circumstance this season has molded us into what we are," Trachsel said. "We're playing our best when it matters most, down the stretch. We're battled tested and mentally tough, and we're not just a team but a family."

Trachsel, 39, earned 17 letters in softball, tennis, basketball and soccer at Duluth Central. In addition, the Trachsel family in Duluth is legendary for its racquetball prowess. Jamie Trachsel is also a nine-time national champion in racquetball (1988-93 and 2003-05), but she admitted she doesn't play much anymore.

"I'm just so busy coaching," Trachsel said, laughing. "To be honest, at this point, I'd rather have a golf club in my hand whenever I get free time."

After graduating from Central, she played softball at St. Cloud State from 1998-2001, leading the Huskies to three straight NCAA Division II tournament appearances and one conference title.

Trachsel began her coaching career at North Dakota State as a graduate assistant in 2002. She spent 14 seasons with the Bison, including the final six as co-head coach. In those six seasons, NDSU went 221-109 (.670), 98-19 (.838) in Summit League play, and advanced to NCAA Division I regional play five times.

After the Bison went 39-15 and 17-0 in the Summit League in 2016, Trachsel took the head coaching job at Iowa State.

"I was never looking to leave, but I had people reach out because of what we had built there and how we had done it," Trachsel said. "I spent 14 years at NDSU personally and professionally growing up there. It was tough. It was like breaking up with 30 people."

Iowa State went 23-35 in 2017 under Trachsel. While that record wasn't great, the Cyclones were rebuilding, having won 20 games the year before, and Trachsel said that job helped pave the way for her to return to a strong Big Ten program in her home state.

"You don't know what you don't know, in terms of being a head coach at a power-five conference," Trachsel said. "You're making all the decisions and trying to manage a staff and all these other things you don't really have to do if you're not the person in charge. I said that on my interview; had I not gone to Iowa State, I don't know. I could do the field stuff, the coaching for sure, but I don't know if I would have been prepared enough to take on a job like this."

So, Trachsel went from trying to rebuild a program to leading one already on top. Now the challenge is keeping the Gophers there, a challenge she embraces.

"It was a tough year at Iowa State in terms of rebuilding, but I'm thankful for the administration for believing in me, and I was proud of the kids and what we were able to accomplish," Trachsel said. "But the state of the (Gophers) program was something too good to pass up."

That opportunity emerged last summer after former Gophers softball coach Jessica Allister left Minnesota for Stanford, setting off a whirlwind coaching search. Coyle made good on his promise to move quickly as Trachsel was in place just six days after Allister bolted for her alma mater.

Trachsel certainly didn't wait long to call Coyle back.

"There's not a lot of jobs out there in our profession for opportunities like this, so to be considered, let alone offered a job anywhere, I'm really proud of that," Trachsel said. "You never get anywhere where you are in life alone, and there's so many people who have helped me. There's a lot of people to thank for where I'm at now, and a lot to be grateful for."