The voice of USF Athletics, Jim Louk, will routinely put down his radio headset and pick up the pen to share his perspective on the history of USF Athletics.
Louk has been broadcasting games for 27 years and is the resident historian in the Athletics Department hallways ... This week he remembers the Sun Dome in Goodbye from an Old Friend.
Letters From Louk: The Class of 2011 - Monica Triner
By JIM LOUK
Bulls thrown out of ACC. USF softball coach blames his own player.
Now that I have your attention, here is the story of Monica Triner, and how her USF softball team played its way out of the ACC while she played her way in to the USF Athletics Hall of Fame.
From 1996 to 1999, Conference USA didn’t include softball in its roster of sports. As a result, the Bulls played in the Southern Atlantic Softball Alliance (SASA). It was a conglomeration of teams including the Bulls and UNC Charlotte, but it was predominantly ACC teams including Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Florida State.
USF did the last thing any of those ACC teams expected.
The Bulls dominated the league.
In four years, the Bulls went 39-9 in the SASA before finally moving to Conference USA in 2000. At the heart of that ACC domination was Monica Triner.
“When she came here,” laughs USF head softball coach Ken Eriksen, “we won the ACC Championship three years in a row. ACC schools weren’t used to losing to non-ACC schools, so Monica about got us kicked out of that league. She had that kind of impact. She dominated from the start.”
Triner hit and pitched her way to the top of the USF softball record books, and next month her accomplishments will be recognized with her induction in to the USF Athletics Hall of Fame.
Eriksen remains unsurprised at what Triner achieved in a USF uniform.
“She was one of the best ballplayers I’d ever seen as a young lady 15 to 17 years old,” he said. “When she said she would come to USF, I knew we were going to be in the postseason immediately. She was a phenomenal athlete”.
“It was a perfect fit,” recalls Triner. “The things he taught me, I understood. It was the right combination. When I worked with him at camps, he told me to do things and I could do them. We joked around a lot; sometimes you don’t have that.”
Eriksen had it figured accurately. The Bulls did go to the postseason immediately, with NCAA Tournament appearances in Triner’s first year (1996) as well as 1997 and 1998. It was a remarkable ascension for a young USF softball program that had just moved to fast pitch a few years earlier.
“She knew how to have fun,” says Eriksen. “She had no problem with confidence in her abilities, but she was very gracious and very humble. She was the whole package.”
One of the biggest challenges was how to use such a talent.
“She was the best shortstop who never played shortstop; the best catcher who never caught. We just needed her in the circle,” says Eriksen.
“I would have played anywhere,” says Triner.
So it was settled. Triner would pitch most of the time and play first base periodically to keep her bat in the lineup.
“Mo was the ideal teammate,” says Amber Wright, who played with Triner in 1996 and 1997. “She was competitive, talented, refused to lose and was a friend. She brought humor to the game. She was just an exceptional person. If you needed a ride home, she was the one you called. She was always there, ready to be a good teammate and support you in any way.”
More than a decade after her final game, her statistics remain legendary. Triner is first all-time in career wins with 92; first in innings pitched and strikeouts; second in saves; second in career batting average, and in the top five all time in home runs, hits, doubles and runs batted in. But Eriksen says her legacy goes beyond the numbers.
“She was the pied piper for generations of softball players to come to USF. We were fortunate to surround her with good players, but that was simply because those players came to USF because Monica Triner was here.”
“There is a reason that she’s the first softball player going in to the Hall of Fame,” says Wright. “She was exceptional in every phase of the game. She was the player that took us from being perhaps a little above average to being a national contender.”
Following her playing days, Triner went in to coaching, eventually electing to return to USF to be a part of Eriksen’s staff.
“It meant the world,” Eriksen said. “We had the best representative of Tampa Bay softball wanting to stay home and coach with her alma mater. She had opportunities to coach elsewhere. I can’t tell you how proud I was when she came back.”
Triner credits her teammates for her Hall of Fame honors.
“It’s fun to look back and think about all the memories we had. I remember people making fabulous diving catches and then having people come up to me and say “great game” when I hadn’t even thrown a good game; they just made really good plays behind me. I tip my hat to all of them and say thank you because they helped me get here”.
Monica Triner’s USF career is a unique one. When a player’s career stats are bordering on staggering, yet don’t really tell the entire story of that person’s influence on a program, you are looking at a very rare member of the Bulls family indeed.
Such is the legacy of Monica Triner, as she becomes the first Bulls softball player to be inducted in to the USF Athletics Hall of Fame.