Q&A: Coach Ashley Cozart

Brooke J. Freundschuh, Editor-in-Chief

In the 2022 season, softball was the only sport at The University of North Alabama to have a season with a majority of wins. As the 2023 season kicks off in full gear, coach Ashley Cozart spoke to Brooke Freundschuh about this year’s team.

Freundschuh: What makes softball stand out in UNA athletics?

Cozart: I think our culture has always been strong. Yes, we’ve had our ups and downs, but leadership is huge and our seniors every year have done an amazing job. I think when you have the right mentality and chemistry a lot of great things happen!

Freundschuh: What do you think is the key to success in athletics?

Cozart: Relationships and love! Those are two things I base my coaching off of, and when everyone loves each other and puts others first and does what’s best for the team, then you can be successful. Of course you have to recruit talented players, so recruiting is huge, but success comes when you can put it all together and be a family. 

Freundschuh: Which game are you most anticipating this season?

Cozart: Our home game with Alabama will be the most anticipated and exciting non-conference game for us. To have a team like Alabama come to Florence is huge for our program! We are hoping to have between 3000-4,000 fans at that game, and it will be an electric atmosphere that we haven’t really gotten to play in much. There has been so much prep go into making this game perfect and exciting for everyone! I think there will be pressure on the girls, as like every game, but having them at our place could bring a little bit more, but our girls will handle it fine! 

Freundschuh: How is this season different from the last? Are you at any disadvantages?

Cozart: Every season is different! You never know what kind of team you’ll have or what other teams will have and how you will stack up. This team is different than last years team, but a lot [is] the same too! We have great leadership this year, just like last! But every team has their own identity. This team has been an absolute joy to coach so far, and I have been so proud of them the standard they have set already and everything they have done. 

Freundschuh: How does your assistant coaching staff aide in softball’s success? 

Cozart: I couldn’t do anything without them, and they both are so strong in the areas we really need! Hannah has been a huge part of this program, even as a player. As a coach she works so hard and makes sure everything is fine, but also makes sure she’s pushing out kids to be the best. She makes me a better coach every day! Whitney is our pitching coach, but can do it all. She was with me in 2016 when we won the National Championship, and now has made her way back here. She was an amazing pitcher herself and knows her stuff. Plus she is so likable and really is a great coach and mentor for the girls. 

Freundschuh: Who are the key members of your lineup?

Cozart: Our lineup consists of some key returners as well as some new girls who will be put in big spots! Returners include Georgia Land, Sidney Bevis, Hailey Jones, Haven Kirby, Brooke Burback, Maci Birdyshaw and Elena Escobar. All of these girls had a big impact on our season last year and we look for them to lead this group. Some key new players are Felicity Frame, who is our lead-off and is leading us in hitting right now; Hannah Price, a local freshman pitcher who has already thrown great for us this year; and McKenzie Patterson who is in center field for us can do it all and is great on offense or defense.

Freundschuh: What is your vision for the future of UNA softball?

Cozart: Now with the transition behind us, my vision for this team is to play post season ball! We have shown we can compete in our conference and we would like to make the next step in winning a conference championship or getting a post-season bid and playing in a big regional. Playing in a softball regional would be the most awesome experience for us! 

Freundschuh: What do you wish the UNA community knew about your team?

Cozart: Honestly, I believe the community knows how great our girls are! They volunteer in the community and are involved in so many great things that I truly feel like people see who we are and what we stand for. I am so proud of our team now and past teams because of their character and willingness to be the best for our school but also our community. I am truly blessed by everyone who has come through our program and I have the best job in the world.