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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 20, 2006

Team prepares for loss of Degen

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Dana Degen

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The University of Hawai'i softball team, which leaves today for a 12-day road trip to California, already is bracing for a significant loss.

After Saturday's doubleheader against Fresno State, assistant coach Dana Degen will leave the Rainbow Wahine to resume her professional softball career in Italy.

Degen, a former All-America catcher at UH, is the battery coach in charge of the pitchers and catchers. Despite UH losing last year's top two starting pitchers, Degen and head coach Bob Coolen developed a staff that pitched three perfect games this season.

"I'm absolutely going to miss it," said Degen, who was hired at UH in January. "It's been better than anything I could have imagined. The players have been fantastic."

But Degen said she missed playing, and could not turn down an offer to return to the Bollate team of the Italian Softball League. Bollate is located in Milan, and Degen described the fans as animated and passionate.

"It's a great opportunity," Coolen said. "She gets to do something she loves during the summer. I wouldn't want to take that opportunity away from anyone."

Coolen said Degen would catch during practices to determine each pitcher's strengths. "She could see the little things," Degen said.

Degen also mentored catcher Kristi Yoshizawa, who calls all of the pitches. Yoshizawa was primarily a third baseman last season.

"I've been really lucky," Degen said. "I've been in the right place at the right time. I'm fortunate to be able to continue playing at my age (28). And I was fortunate to be able to come back to coach at the school where I played."

Volunteer coach John Nakamura will expand his duties during Degen's absence.

Nakamura was a part-time UH coach before retiring at the end of the 2005 season. UH used his salary $18,000 to sign Degen to a six-month contract in January.

Coolen said he hopes Degen will return as a part-time casual hire next season.

Meanwhile, the Rainbows have scrambled to prepare for this road trip. Before departing, Coolen said, the players needed to sign up for on-campus housing for the next academic year, and register for summer school and fall-semester classes.

Assistant coach Dee Wisneski has arranged the study schedule for the road trip. Coolen and Nakamura will serve as proctors for tests.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.