Granger looks to keep ULL softball on track

What has suddenly become a career altering matter for Megan Granger might have seemed nothing more than a superficial joke in January,

“If you had told me three weeks ago that I’d be the interim head coach, I would have laughed at you,” Granger says about her appointment last week to replace Michael Lotief, who resigned Feb. 8 as head coach of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette softball program.

Granger, 24, who played the last three seasons for ULL, finds herself now coaching the No. 15 team in this week’s USA Today and NFCA Division poll and supervising many of the players she called teammates only eight months ago.

She was hired to coach the Notre Dame-Crowley softball team this season, but resigned to become a full-time ULL assistant under Lotief, who served as ULL co-head softball coach with his wife, Stefni Lotief for the last 10 years.

Stefni Lotief resigned as co-head coach in July in order to spend more time with her family. Mike Lotief is now listed by the university as an unpaid volunteer assistant.

The Cajuns (3-1) host the 27th annual Louisiana Classics at Lamson Park this weekend at Lamson Park. ULL plays its first Classics game Friday at 6 p.m. against Mississippi Valley State. The Cajuns then meet Texas State at 1 p.m. Saturday.

ULL won two games last weekend at the University of Houston-hosted Hilton Plaza Classic, with Granger in her interim debut.

Also serving as a first-year assistant is Joshua Johnson, who is helping with the four pitchers on this year’s roster.

The Cajuns opened their home season on Wednesday night with a 9-1 victory over Mississippi State.

Granger said the system the Lotief’s have established over the years won’t change under her direction and has made her job easier.

“Our goal is to get better and it’s been that way since the fall and that hasn’t changed,” she said. “Coach Mike’s role is not going to change, only his title. He’s still going to be the hitting coach and helping in the transition of this process.

“He (Lotief) has led this program and prepared the players since the fall.”

Lotief was not at a news luncheon this week that featured Granger and starting pitcher Jordan Wallace.

Granger said that as a volunteer coach, Lotief is prevented under NCAA rules from participating in certain aspects of player recruitment.

Moving from former player to interim head coach won’t include a tremendous learning curve, Granger said.

“I know the system and we are going to keep fighting to keep that system. That’s what we’re about,” she said.

Although she was friends with many of the players on the roster, Granger said she doesn’t consider that an obstacle in her situation, since she was away from ULL for the past eight months.

“That time away, I think, has allowed us to establish a relationship as coach and player. As far as being friends goes, I wouldn’t say we are all friends. It’s now a coach and player sort of thing,” said Granger, who played high school softball at Lafayette’s Teurlings Catholic.

Sophomore pitcher Jordan Wallace said the ULL players weren’t aware that Lotief would resign when he did.

“No, we didn’t hear rumors about it,” Wallace said. “The seniors have just stepped up and they are just fighting for (Lotief) and our rights of fairness and equality and as a team. Our seniors are just trying to keep that together.”

The announcement of Lotief’s resignation the day before the Houston tournament didn’t have an adverse effect, said Wallace.

“Coach Mike is still here. Nothing has really changed. We don’t want to think about the politics and everything that’s been going on. We’re here to play softball and that’s all we’re expected to do,” Wallace said.

Wallace said Granger was an acceptable choice.

“We know that she’s been part of this sisterhood and someone who’s been through the process and knows what’s expected of her,” Wallace said. “The team is trying to keep that tradition alive, so we expected (Granger) to be the coach.”