Gophers head to coach’s alma mater for tournament

Head coach Jessica Allister was a four-year starter while at Stanford.

Matt Greenstein

Head coach Jessica Allister will head back to a familiar place this weekend.

She’s traveling to her alma mater, but this time she’ll be managing from the opposing dugout.

Allister started all four years as a catcher at Stanford and led the Cardinal to two Women’s College World Series.

“College was the best four years of my life. I enjoyed every second of it, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” she said.

She’s in the Stanford record books’ top-10 in nearly every batting statistic and earned multiple accolades along the way.

As well as her on-the-field recognitions, Allister was a leader among her teammates.

“She’s just a fierce competitor. She’s the leader on the field and works extremely hard,” said John Rittman, Allister’s coach at Stanford.

Her competitive drive dictates the intensity of the Gophers’ practices, which are run at a very fast pace and are never dull.

Both Allister’s mother and father were coaches, so the coaching gene is in Allister’s makeup.

“You take a little bit and learn from all of your experiences. I think coach Allister has probably done the same with her career,” Rittman said. “That’s one of the things that good coaches can do. They learn the game, and it’s very evident that she’s done a great job.”

Throughout Minnesota’s season, Allister has preached to her team to control the controllable, and her motivating and competitive nature has rubbed off on the Gophers.

“Coach says it all the time, ‘[We] can’t have any expectations. [We] just have to go out there and compete,’” sophomore pitcher Sara Groenewegen said.

The last time Allister traveled to her alma mater was two years ago for a tournament where the Gophers won three of five games.

One of their two losses went into extra innings when Minnesota fell to Stanford 2-1 in the eighth.

“Once the game started, you don’t really think about it. But before and after the game, it’s definitely a weird feeling to know that someone you coached and coached with is now a successful coach of her own program,” said Rittman, who has since left Stanford.

Not only was Allister a coach for the Gophers, but before Minnesota, she was an assistant coach under Rittman.

She spent three years as an assistant coach and helped Stanford reach three consecutive NCAA tournaments and two super regional appearances.

 “The opportunity to coach with John Rittman, who I just think the world of, and to be able to come home and represent my alma mater, it was a dream come true,” Allister said.

Before coming to Minnesota, Allister also made stops at Georgia and Oregon, but she has since changed her shade of red after taking over at Minnesota five years ago.

“She’s had a lot of success in a short amount of time, and nobody is more deserving than coach Allister,” Rittman said.