SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Exactly two weeks after becoming the head softball coach at Sacramento State, Lori Perez quickly completed her coaching staff by hiring assistants Nichole Willis and Danielle Kaminaka today.
Willis and Kaminaka have a combined 12 years of coaching experience, and both were standout players at Fresno State and Loyola Marymount, respectively.
"I am excited to announce the hiring of Nichole Willis and Danielle Kaminaka," Perez said. "They bring knowledge and experience as players at the Division I level. In addition, they know the hard work and dedication coaching at this level requires and are focused on building confidence within our team. I have no doubt they will be instrumental in our quest to win a Big Sky Conference championship this year."
Willis, who played four years at Fresno State, spent the last three seasons (2011-13) as an assistant coach at UC San Diego. With the Tritons, she helped coach the team to a combined 123-61 overall record, including a 2011 national championship and a 2012 national runner-up finish.
In fact, UC San Diego won a school-record 45 games in 2011 and 2012, and Willis was part of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division II National Coaching Staff of the Year in 2011, and the NFCA West Region Coaching Staff of the Year in 2012.
Prior to UC San Diego, Willis was a varsity assistant coach for Clovis High School (2010) and an assistant with the Fresno Force U18 Gold club team (2007-08) that made back-to-back appearances at Nationals.
The Clovis, Calif., native was a four-year starting catcher at Fresno State (2004-07) where she caught Olympians Jamie Southern and Robin Mackin. A 2007 Easton first team All-American, two-time all-West Region, three-time first team all-Western Athletic Conference, three-time preseason all-WAC, and 2004 WAC Freshman of the Year, Willis helped Fresno State to four straight NCAA Regional appearances and a combined 175-69 overall record and 64-11 conference mark.
A career .299 hitter, she had 39 doubles, 23 home runs and 127 RBIs in 725 at-bats during her four seasons with the Bulldogs. Defensively, she threw out 54.1 percent of would-be base stealers (59-for-109). Willis graduated from Fresno State with a kinesiology degree in 2008.
"Nichole has a great deal of knowledge as a former catcher and hitter at the highest level," Perez said. "She will be a vital asset in working with our catchers and pitching staff. She brings an enthusiasm for the game, and a love for working with student-athletes that I know our players will gravitate towards."
Kaminaka, who played four years at Loyola Marymount, has assistant coaching stops at Colgate (2013) and Loyola Marymount (2009-12). She was an assistant coach with her alma mater in 2011 and 2012, and a graduate assistant in 2009 and 2010.
As an assistant at Loyola Marymount, she helped coach the team to a combined 110 wins over four seasons, including two years with at least 32 victories. The Lions went 45-35 in conference play over that span, including a 16-4 league mark in 2011.
Prior to Loyola Marymount, she coached one season at Southwestern Community College (Chula Vista, Calif.) in 2008 where the team made a 12-game improvement in conference play to 14-2 after the team had gone 2-12 in 2007.
The Vista, Calif., native was a four-year starting third baseman at Loyola Marymount (2002-05) where she broke into the Lions' record book in a big way. A three-time first team all-Pacific Coast Softball Conference performer during her career, she was the PCSC Player of the Year and a second team NFCA all-Pacific Region selection in 2004 after she set the then-school record with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs. As a senior in 2005, she won the PCSC Scholar-Athlete of the Year award and was a first team academic all-district selection after leading the squad to a 34-20 overall record, a 16-4 PCSC mark and the school's first-ever NCAA Regional appearance.
During her four seasons as a player, the Lions combined for a 138-87 overall record and 58-25 conference mark. A career .326 hitter, she ranks among the top eight players in Loyola Marymount history in 11 different categories, including second in career home runs (47), doubles (43), walks (110), slugging percentage (.623) and on-base percentage (.434), as well as third in RBIs (149). She received both her master's degree (2010) and bachelor's degree (2005) in English Literature at Loyola Marymount.
"Danielle has the experience as a player and coach to connect with our hitters and get the best out of them when the game is on the line," Perez said. "She understands the challenges this level presents and the resiliency it takes to be successful."