Now entering her 18th season at Northwestern's helm, head coach Kate Drohan has built the Wildcats into a perennial power, winning a pair of Big Ten Championships and making back-to-back Women's College World Series semifinal appearances alongside her twin sister and associate head coach, Caryl Drohan. Kate Drohan took over the 'Cats after serving as an assistant under legendary head coach Sharon Drysdale for four seasons.
After 17 seasons, Drohan's career record of 570-345-1 gives her a .623 overall winning percentage. Her record includes an incredible five-year stretch from 2005-09 in which NU compiled a combined record of 215-77, reached the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament four times and became the first private school in NCAA history to advance to the WCWS semifinals in consecutive years (2006-07). Overall under Drohan, NU has made 12 NCAA Tourney appearances and advanced to the Regional championship round seven times.
Drohan already has cemented her status as one of the best coaches in Big Ten history, joining four other conference coaches (including Drysdale) as the only coaches to ever take Big Ten schools to the WCWS. Drohan is one of two B1G coaches to make the final pairing in Oklahoma City. Her .623 career winning percentage ranks third-best in Big Ten Conference history among coaches with 10 years of experience in the league.
Drohan took over a squad that finished 20-25 in 2001, and led it to a 24-18-1 record in her first season in 2002. Building on its above .500 mark, Northwestern qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2003, kicking off a string of 11 postseason appearances in the next 15 years.
Postseason success has become a trademark of Drohan's teams. Northwestern is 32-27 in the NCAA Tournament since 2003, including a 5-4 mark at the Women's College World Series. Since the advent of Super Regional play in 2005, the Wildcats have won their Regional four times and advanced to the Regional final seven times.
Northwestern has earned national respect from the pollsters as well. The Wildcats were ranked in 76-consecutive NFCA coaches polls and 78-straight USA Softball polls dating from March of 2005 until March of 2010. NU spent 27 of those weeks in the top 10 of the NFCA rankings, and earned the program's first No. 1 vote in 2008 after defeating then-No. 1 Arizona and then-No. 3 Texas A&M to begin the year.
Big Ten dominance also has become one of Drohan's hallmarks. Since finishing tied for fifth in the conference in her first year, the 'Cats improved to top-four finishes 11 times in the last 15 years, including capturing Big Ten titles in 2006 and 2008. Northwestern also won the Big Ten Tournament title in 2008 and has advanced to the championship game of the event in four of the previous six years. Drohan's career conference record is 219-130. NU led the Big Ten in total league victories in four-straight seasons from 2005-08.
In 2006, Northwestern's Big Ten title was its first since 1987, and the Wildcats qualified for the Women's College World Series for the first time in 20 years. In Oklahoma City, the Wildcats made an exciting and perfect 3-0 run through bracket play to the championship series. NU's finish at the WCWS and in the polls -- No. 2 -- both marked program bests. The 'Cats also reached the 50-win plateau for the first time in school history.
Drohan and her staff earned NFCA/Speedline National Coaching Staff of the Year honors following the 2006 season.
Drohan and the 'Cats then repeated their run to the WCWS semifinals in 2007, again breaking the school record with 52 victories. Northwestern played the nation's No. 4-rated schedule, and earned a program-best No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
In 2008, Northwestern performed a Big Ten double dip, winning both the regular season championship and the tournament championship in the same season for the first time in school history. NU's 18-2 record in conference play marked its most wins in the league since going 19-9 in 1995 during an era when teams played four-game sets against each other.
Eight different Wildcats have earned a total of 15 All-America honors under the Drohans -- including a quartet of first-year student-athletes. Also, NU has won five Big Ten Player of the Year, three Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and five Big Ten Freshman of the Year awards over the entire Drohan tenure.
Since joining the Northwestern staff in 1998, Drohan has coached 46 National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Region selections, 12 CoSIDA Academic All-District selections and 89 All-Big Ten honorees. Ten Wildcats have been selected in the National Professional Fastpitch (NPF) senior draft or gone on to play in the league in the last 14 years.
Drohan's accomplishments at Northwestern began from the first day. One season after taking over the program in 2002, Drohan led the Wildcats to a 36-19 record and Northwestern's sixth-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2003, the first of seven-straight NCAA tourney berths.
Drohan coached NU to its third-straight NCAA appearance in 2005, advancing to Super Regional play after winning South Bend Regional as the nation's No. 9 overall seed. Four Wildcats landed first-team All-Big Ten honors, at the time tied for the most in NU history. Drohan and her staff were named the NFCA's Mideast Region Co-Coaching Staff of the Year.
After its World Series and Super Regional runs of the late 2000s, NU broke a two-year postseason absence with a spectacular finish to the 2012 campaign. Buoyed by playing the nation's No. 1-rated nonconference strength of schedule, the Wildcats won eight of their final nine regular season games to gain eligibility and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. As the No. 4 seed in the Austin Region, NU upset the Tournament's No. 6 overall seed Texas in the opening round, eventually advancing to its fifth NCAA Regional Final under the Drohans.
Drohan has proven to be one of the top recruiters in the country, bringing the best and the brightest to Evanston. Most recently, the Class of 2022 is ranked among the nation's top-10 overall recruiting classes by FloSoftball.
In addition to all of NU's Big Ten superlative winners and 15 All-America awards, then-NU senior Carri Leto was one of 45 players and the only Big Ten student-athlete to earn a tryout with the U.S. National Team in 2003. Since then, Garland Cooper, Eileen Canney and Tammy Williams all have earned invites to the U.S. National Team selection camp. Canney and Williams won spots on the 2010 USA Softball Women's National Team, marking Northwestern's first contributions to that roster since Lisa Ishikawa in 1985.
Drohan herself joined the USA Softball Women's National Team coaching pool for the 2009-12 quadrennium. She was named the head coach of the 2010 Futures National Team, leading the squad at the 2010 World Cup of Softball. She was slated to coach the National Team at the 2011 Japan Cup before that tournament was canceled after an earthquake and tsunami decimated the host city of Sendai.
During Drohan's time as an assistant coach in Evanston, the Wildcats put together three 30-plus win seasons, highlighted by an NCAA Regional appearance in 2000.
After the 2000 season, Drohan was promoted to associate head coach and took on further responsibilities within the program. In early 2001, Drysdale informed the administration that she would step down as head coach at the end of the spring. Shortly after that announcement, Athletic Director Rick Taylor announced that Drohan would become NU's head softball coach.
Drohan came to Evanston from Boston College, where she had served as an assistant coach for the Eagles for two seasons. There she served as assistant softball coach and assistant athletic director for facilities from 1995-97. In addition to her duties with the softball team, Drohan worked game operations and administration with the Eagles.
A much respected and sought-after clinician, Drohan has delivered lectures to players, coaches and students of the game across the country. Beyond the softball arena, the business community has shown a strong interest in the leadership tools Drohan has developed within the program, leading to speaking engagements in the management world as well.
Drohan earned her bachelor's degree in biology from Providence in May of 1995. As a member of the Providence softball team, she was named to the All-Big East team in 1992, 1994 and 1995.
Drohan resides in Evanston.