Now in her ninth season as the head coach at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, head coach Meredith Smith Neal has transformed the UMKC softball program into a formidable contender in the Western Athletic Conference and beyond, becoming one of sport’s up-and-comers in the process.
Under Smith Neal, Kansas City clinched its fourth consecutive postseason appearance in 2014, qualifying for the WAC Tournament with a 7-8 conference record. The 'Roos won 20-or-more games for the fourth time in the past five seasons -- a feat UMKC accomplished just once in the six years prior to Smith Neal's arrival.
In 2008, UMKC finished with an 8-31 overall record, doubling its win total from 2007 despite fielding a team with nine freshmen. The .205 winning percentage was the program’s best since 2003, and the modest improvement was the start of a four-year run of increased victory totals.
Smith Neal stands as the program’s all-time winningest coach with an overall record of 139-219 (.388).
The Kangaroos finished their final season in The Summit League with an 18-27 overall record in 2013. As the No. 4 seed in the league tournament, Kansas City defeated South Dakota in an elimination game, 2-0, before falling to eventual champion North Dakota State 6-5.
During the 2012 season, Smith reached the century mark in wins as UMKC finished 13-11 in Summit League play and 27-30 overall record on their way to a league tournament berth.
In 2011, Smith Neal guided the ‘Roos to school records of 38 overall wins and 18 Summit League wins en route to being named The Summit League Coach of the Year. Under her guidance, five ‘Roos were named All-Summit League performers, including Kaelene Curry and Deanna Friese, who were named The Summit League Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. The duo also garnered national recognition under Smith’s watch, as both were named to the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I All-Central Region Second Team.
Academically, nine ‘Roos were named to the Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence and 12 were honored as Summit League Winter/Spring Academic All-League performers, including seven as Distinguished Scholars, while Curry was selected as a Capital One Second Team Academic All-American.
During the 2010 season, Smith improved UMKC’s win total for the third consecutive season, leading the squad to a 22-26 overall record and a 12-10 mark in Summit League play. The ‘Roos finished in a tie for fourth place in the regular season standings and narrowly missed out on advancing to The Summit League Tournament by percentage points. The team’s 22 victories were tied for the third most in a single season in the program’s history.
Smith Neal’s squad picked up its play late in the 2010 campaign, posting a 14-4 record over the final 18 games. One of the victories was a 6-5 triumph at UNLV, which stands is one of the signature wins during Smith Neal’s tenure in Blue and Gold.
Under her direction, a trio of Kangaroos - Kelly Fischer, Anna Sokolik and Emily Ott - garnered First Team All-Summit League honors. The ‘Roos also had a total of three student-athletes earn Summit League Player/Pitcher of the Week honors.
Smith Neal’s squad continued its excellence in the classroom, as 11 student-athletes were named to The Summit League Winter/Spring Academic all-League team, while eight were tabbed to the Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence.
In 2009, Smith Neal led the team to a 20-34 overall record, as the Kangaroos finished 10-14 in The Summit League.
During the season, Smith led the ‘Roos on a six-game winning streak that began on April 4 against IPFW and ended on April 11 against North Dakota.
Kelly Fischer and Chelsea Hartwig earned second team all-league honors and Samantha Hurst was named The Summit League Pitcher of the Week. Hartwig also set a new UMKC school record for most home runs hit in a single season with eight. Off the field, Smith had 13 players named to The Summit League Winter/Spring Academic All-League team and six players named to the Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence.
Smith moved to Kansas City after serving as the Director of Softball Operations at Tennessee during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. In this capacity, she was responsible for developing, organizing and distributing recruiting materials, while also coordinating the team’s travel arrangements.
During the 2006 season, Smith helped guide the Volunteers to the SEC Championship, as well as a berth in the Women’s College World Series.
Prior to being promoted as a member of the UT staff, Smith served as the team’s manager in 2004-‘05. She handled various administrative duties. The Knoxville, Tenn., native has also been a camp instructor for the Volunteers since 2001.
As a student-athlete, Smith played collegiately at Centre College in Danville, Ky., in 2000. During that season, she tied an NCAA record for most doubles in a single game with five, picked up all-conference honors, and earned a league player of the week award. She then spent one semester at East Tennessee State before transferring to UT, where she was involved with the Panhellenic Council of Pi Beta Phi and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
Smith graduated cum laude from Tennessee in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. She also holds her master’s degree in sports psychology with a minor in sports management.