Michelle DePolo has found ways to excel.
At Army West Point for nine seasons as head coach and two before that as an assistant, she wasn't dealing with the typical Division I program in the recruiting spectrum as her focus was on student-athletes that were coming through the United States Military Academy.
But the Black Knights found ways to win.
In her first season as the head coach at Army in 2010, the team went from a projected next-to-last finish to a Patriot League regular-season championship, the program's first in nearly 20 years.
Now DePolo is getting a new opportunity as she was selected on Tuesday, becoming Tennessee Tech softball's fifth head coach as the program enters its 35th year, following Robert Swindell (1986-1987), Bobby Holloway (1988-1998), Tory Acheson (1999-2012) and Bonnie Graham (2013-2019).
"I'm just really thrilled to join the staff at Tennessee Tech and be a part of the Cookeville community," DePolo said. "I can't wait to get started and I'm ready to hit the ground running."
Tech Director of Athletics Mark Wilson said, "We are really excited about Michelle's leadership and experience as the head coach at one of the premier institutions of higher education in the country with the Unites States Military Academy. Her experience as a coach and as a leader of women is exemplary and we are excited that she will be leading our softball program."
During the interview process, DePolo had time to meet not only with members of the Tech Department of Athletics and the community, but also with senior members of the Golden Eagle team.
"I had a poignant moment with the student-athletes as they told me what impression they wanted to leave on Tennessee Tech softball not only for themselves, but more importantly for the future of the program," DePolo said. "I thought it was an incredibly selfless comment and I share that vision. I was both impressed and inspired by their vision. That told me that this is a program I want to be a part of immediately and serve as the best leader I can for the program now and for years to come."
"I also thought it was absolutely palpable how dedicated the staff, the administration and the community is to help lead Tennessee Tech softball to new heights in the future."
DePolo comes to a Golden Eagle program that has 12 Ohio Valley Conference championships – five regular-season and seven tournament – and seven NCAA tournament appearances. With a storied tradition and excellent players on the roster, it was an amazing opportunity for the veteran coach.
"There is just a lot of opportunity here," DePolo said. "This isn't a rebuilding project. We have great players coming back and there's a lot of talent, along with mentality, attitude and desire. With the rich tradition Tech softball has, I'm really looking forward to building off the foundation and adding my own mark, in an effort toward positive consistency."
Her resume at Army West Point is impressive: she was the first female head coach at the Division I for the Academy, a two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year, led the Army team to five 30-plus-win seasons and the only four 35-plus-win seasons the program has ever had. When she was hired at Army, she was the second-youngest Division I head coach in the country.
It doesn't finish there. Under her direction, Army recorded its first wins over Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference teams and the program broke nearly every offensive and defensive record in its history. In her nine seasons as head coach, Army had 10 National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Region players, 22 All-Patriot League selections, 16 Patriot League all-tournament nods and 17 Academic All-Patriot League winners.
With DePolo at the helm, Army reached a berth to the NCAA Austin Regional in 2013.
She has found ways to develop amazing talent in the circle and on the diamond. Kasey McCravey was featured on ESPN in 2016 for the No. 1 Play of the Day on SportsCenter and went on to be a nominee for the ESPY for "Best Play." Renee Poirier led Division I in saves in 2016. Morgan Lashley led the country in wins until the postseason in 2012, earning the conference's Rookie and Pitcher of the Year honors. April Ortenzo was named the U.S. Army Female Athlete of the Year in 2015 for her performance on the All-Army Softball team as a commissioned officer.
"Michelle has recruited women of high character," Wilson said. "She has recruited young women who are disciplined and have an amazing work ethic in the classroom. They have certainly won a lot of softball games there, so I expect a lot of great things for her here at Tennessee Tech."
She finished her tenure at Army with 280 wins, averaging just over 30 a season.
DePolo also spent five seasons on the NCAA's National Softball Committee, helping select the field of 64 and was the chair of the NCAA Northeast Regional Committee.
In her two years prior to the head post, DePolo was the program's lone assistant coach, serving as the main recruiter. Coaching the pitchers and catchers, the team improved from last in the Patriot League in ERA to the top.
After graduation, DePolo became the head coach at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School, leading the program to its best record and a pair of shut-out victories over the then-defending junior college national champions.
During her playing career at Georgian Court, she helped lead the Lions to four Central Athletic Collegiate Conference championships, three Region X championships and three appearances in the NAIA national tournaments. A two-year team captain, DePolo posted a 0.50 ERA in the 2001 campaign, earning an All-CACC tournament selection.
DePolo graduated magna cum laude with her bachelor's in English in 2003. A Dean's List student every semester, she was named a Presidential Scholar National Dean's List recipient. She was later inducted into GCU's Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.
Before joining Army as an assistant coach, DePolo had stops at her alma mater as an assistant coach and both Smith College and Amherst College, while earning her master's degree in Exercise and Sport Studies.