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Jessica Merchant begins her first season as an assistant coach with the Golden Gophers softball program after serving four years at UMass in the same capacity.
"Jessica brings a wealth of knowledge to our softball program. She was an All-American player in the Big Ten Conference and a member of Michigan's national championship team," Minnesota head coach Jessica Allister said. "I have played and coached against Jessica for many years and have always been impressed with her character, her work ethic, and her ability to get the best out of her players. She has competed and coached at the highest levels, and knows what it takes to get there. All of this, combined with her mid-western roots, makes Jessica a perfect fit for the University of Minnesota."
Merchant helped guide the Minutewomen to a 164-47-2 cumulative record, winning the Atlantic 10 championship and advancing to the NCAA tournament all four years. Prior to joining the UMass staff, Merchant spent one season as a volunteer assistant at her alma mater, the University of Michigan.
A two-time NFCA All-American shortstop, Merchant captained the Wolverines to the 2005 NCAA Championship - the first national title in program history. The Wayland, Mich. native finished her collegiate career as the school's career home run leader (46) and still owns the record for home runs in a season (21). Merchant also ranks third all-time in career starts (252) and fourth in both career RBI (155) and doubles (48). In 2006, Merchant was a member of the USA Softball Elite Team that won the Intercontinental Cup title and was selected as the Most Valuable Player of the event after hitting .500 with eight RBI and a home run.
Merchant, a 2005 Michigan graduate with a degree in Sport Management and Communication. She played two seasons with the Connecticut Brakettes of the National Pro Fastpitch League and most recently with the New England Riptide. She was also invited to the Women's National Team selection camp in 2006.
"I am thrilled to be to joining the University of Minnesota Softball program, and I would like to thank Coach Allister for giving me such a great opportunity to be on her staff," Merchant said. "I'm so excited to meet the team and start building on the great tradition that the University of Minnesota and Gopher softball have established."