Cozart hits century mark for UNA victories

Senior outfielder Courtney Shields (left) receives advice from coach Ashley Cozart during a 14-5 mercy-rule win over West Florida March 6. Cozart picked up her 100th win as the Lions’ head coach.

After a 14-5 mercy-rule win over the West Florida Argonauts March 6, UNA softball coach Ashley Cozart earned her 100th victory as the Lions’ head coach.

Cozart is in her third season with the Lions and is looking to make three consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament. After the No. 6 Lions’ successful sweep of the Lee Flames, Cozart’s official record at UNA is 105-36.

Cozart said it was a pleasant surprise to find out she hit the milestone, but opted against taking the credit all for herself.

“I honestly had no idea that it was my 100th win until someone told me after the game,” she said. “But it is a good feeling that my teams have had this kind of success. It’s honestly a testament to my players.”

Cozart has a 78 percent win percentage as a head coach.

Junior pitcher Hillary Carpenter, the team’s ace, was a freshman when UNA hired Cozart in July 2013. Carpenter said she is proud to be part of Cozart’s first season.

“It’s such a huge accomplishment for her,” Carpenter said. “For me to be able to be a part of her team all three of those years means a lot to me. I am very thankful for that and thankful for her being my coach.”

After having seven prior seasons of head coaching experience, Cozart said she has grown most in her recruiting ability.

“When I was younger (as a coach), I used to just go after players who had ‘on the field ability,’ but I have made it a point now to go after players who are good kids as well,” Cozart said. “That has a lot to do with our success as a team.”

Cozart said her philosophy is to allow her players to be themselves and to make sure the players know she has confidence in them. One of Cozart’s strong suits is her ability to adapt to her players and their styles, said senior infielder Harlie Barkley.

“Cozart isn’t really the type of coach to change how any of us play the game,” Barkley said. “I think that helps her be a successful coach, but I think she has helped me be a better player mentally.”

Carpenter said Cozart trusting her has improved her pitching ability.

“She has helped me so much, especially by always having so much confidence in me,” Carpenter said. “When she first came to UNA, I was a freshman, and she came in with so much confidence in me. That has helped me these last three years to really have confidence in myself and in my pitches.”

Barkley said Cozart is a reserved coach, taking pressure off the players.

“At practice, we get work done but it’s fairly laid back as well,” Barkley said. “She’ll also help anybody with drills or anything they need help with. I feel like her being that way helps everybody stay calm and play well. It also makes the game a lot more fun.”

Cozart and the Lions remain on the road for a second straight weekend, taking on rival West Alabama in a three-game series March 19-20 in Livingston.