Renee Luers-Gillispie enters her 15th year at the helm of the UCF softball program in 2016. Since starting the program in 2002, Gillispie has led the team to four conference championships, including the program's first regular season and conference titles in 2015. Making back-to-back NCAA Regional Tournament appearances for the first time in school history, UCF's 2015 bid was the program's sixth regional birth.
The Knights and Gillispie have a record of 524-336-1 over the last 12 years, while Gillispie owns a National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) record of 776-540-3 and an NCAA record of 729-512-3.
The Knights are coming off the best season in program history. A school record 50 wins highlighted a campaign with 11 single season records. UCF led the nation with a 0.93 ERA and posted a .979 fielding percentage that ranked second in the nation in 2015. Making their national poll debut on Feb. 17, the Knights were ranked for 14 consecutive weeks last season. Landing as a high as No. 13, UCF finished the 2015 campaign at No. 16.
Junior Shelby Turnier and senior Mackenzie finished the season ranked first and second in the nation as both recorded ERAs below 1.00. Audas and senior Kahley Novak each etched their names in the UCF record books. Turnier became the first NFCA All-American in program history, while Audas earned the first Capital One Academic All-America honors in school history.
Gillispie earned her second American Athletic Conference Coaching Staff of the Year accolades, while guiding Turnier to The American Pitcher of the Year and Jessica Ujvari to The American Player of the Year. A program-best seven Knights earned All-AAC First Team laurels, while six members of the squad earned NFCA All-Region recognition.
In 2012, the Knights made their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance after 10 wins over fellow NCAA Tournament opponents led to just the second at-large birth in program history. UCF also set a new program record for home wins in 2012 by going 27-4 at the UCF Softball Complex.
Gillispie guided the Knights to their third appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their second appearance in the Conference USA Championship Game in 2010. The Black and Gold defeated No. 7 Alabama, No. 16 Tennessee and No. 22 Ohio State and earned the program's first at-large bid into the Regional Tournament.
Gillispie guided her squad to its most successful season on record in 2008, as the Knights claimed the program's first Conference USA Championship crown with a victory over No. 9 Houston on its home field, and fought its way to the NCAA Regional Championship Game with a win over No. 1 Florida. The team's 49 wins on the season were the most in program history, while its 26 votes in the final NFCA Coaches Poll were its most tallies to date. Gillispie also posted her 500th career win in 2008.
The Black and Gold cruised through the C-USA Softball Championship with a 3-0 record, with freshmn Tiffany Lane earning tournament MVP honors for her play throughout the event. Allison Kime, Breanne Javier, Marquita Council and Hillary Barrow joined Lane on the all-tournament team, while the squad earned the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
In 2005, Gillispie led the Knights to their first Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship and the team received the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. In the NCAA Tournament, the Knights picked up their first postseason win with a 5-3 victory over Florida on their home field. In the regular season, UCF picked up wins over No. 8 Washington, No. 20 Florida International and No. 20 Georgia Tech in addition to the program's first win over in-state rival Florida State. Stephanie Best was named A-Sun Player of the Year for the third-consecutive year after leading the nation in home runs (26).
Best was the first UCF softball player to be drafted by the National Pro Fastpitch league when the New England Riptide took her in the fourth round. She ended her career with a .384 batting average, .756 slugging percentage, 71 home runs, 285 hits, 216 runs scored and 213 RBI.
During the 2004 season, Gillispie guided the Knights to a No. 30 ranking in the NFCA Coaches Poll and the team finished the season with a 42-21 overall record. Gillispie earned her 100th win at UCF, while several players earned all-conference and all-region awards.
In the 2003 season, the Knights compiled a 37-31 overall record and a 13-7 mark in the A-Sun. Best was named A-Sun Player of the Year and was recognized by the NFCA on the all-south region team, while pitcher Dottie Cupp and Shinhoster received A-Sun All-Conference honors.
During the inaugural season in 2002, the Black and Gold had a 46-19 record and posted a 21-game winning streak, setting an A-Sun record. Cupp and Shinhoster were named all-conference and all-region while Best earned all-conference.
To date, Gillispie's players have earned 62 all-conference honors, five conference player of the year awards, two conference pitchers of the year, one co-newcomer of the year award and one freshman of the year honor. Four former Knights have also gone on to play in the NPF.
Academically, UCF has garnered 12 CoSIDA Academic All-District honors, ten C-USA All-Academic Team accolades, 90 league honor roll members and 17 academic medal recipients under Gillispie.
Prior to UCF, Gillispie spent four years building the Texas Tech program. She led the Red Raiders to a No. 17 national ranking in 1998 and a No. 24 ranking the following season. Her teams earned runner-up honors at the 1999 NCAA Regional Championship, third place in the 1999 Big 12 Conference Tournament and fourth place in the 1998 conference tournament.
In addition to her successful career at Texas Tech, Gillispie rebuilt softball programs at Bradley University and Joliet Junior College. In 1993, she took over the Bradley program that finished 12-25 in 1992 and in two short years posted a record-breaking 33-8 season. The 1994 team also finished in second place in the Missouri Valley Conference and was ranked fifth in the nation for winning percentage.
Gillispie received N4C Conference Coach of the Year honors as head coach of the 1992 Joliet (Ill.) Junior College team that won the conference championship. She had inherited a 2-29 team in 1991 and transformed that same team into an NJCAA Regional Runner-up with a 32-12 record by 1992.
In addition to coaching at the collegiate level, Gillispie has served as an international speaker for the Italian Softball and Baseball Federation Coaches Convention and also traveled to Athens, Greece as a guest coach for the Greek National Team in 2001.
While she directs her own softball camps and clinics, she has also worked as an instructor with the Griffey International Gold Medal Camp and Higher Ground Camps and Clinics under British National coach Bobby Simpson.
Gillispie began her playing career as a pitcher at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she pitched in two NJCAA National Championship Tournaments. In 1981, she was ranked ninth nationally as a NJCAA pitcher.
Moving on to West Texas A&M, she set nine career pitching records including most wins, most strikeouts and most saves.
In 2005, Gillispie was inducted into the West Texas A&M Athletics Hall of Fame.
Gillispie and her husband, Mark, have been married for 32 years and reside in Oviedo.