Success has followed Melissa Giordano around the softball diamond like a shadow. She parlayed a stellar career at Stamford High School into a scholarship at Marist College. In Giordano’s freshman season, the Red Foxes went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
As a senior, Giordano was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s Player of the Year. Giordano led the MAAC in batting average (.429), hits (66), runs (42), doubles (19) and on-base percentage (.491). She finished with eight home runs and 21 RBIs.
Giordano decided to pursue a coaching career, and spent last season as a full-time assistant with her alma mater, Stamford High.
This year lightning has struck twice. Giordano has returned to her second alma mater and now is going back to the NCAA Tournament.
Marist won the MAAC title last weekend with a win over Fairfield. Wednesday morning the Red Foxes (30-24) fly out to Norman, Okla., where they will open on Friday against host Oklahoma, the No. 1 team in the country.
“It’s awesome,” Giordano, who is the first base coach, said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. “In the beginning of the season all the girls had a goal of winning the MAACs and going to the tournament, and you could tell they were on a mission.”
Giordano provided a little inspiration before the clinching game with Fairfield. “I had never shown them my championship ring before,” Giordano said. “I brought it with me and decided to show it to them and get them a little more pumped up, even more than before.”
Giordano said going back to the tournament did not really resonate until watching the selection show on Sunday night.
“You play in a championship game and you want to win, and it’s so exciting when you do,” Giordano said. “But then you get to play a team you watch on TV and that will probably make the World Series. It’s amazing.”
Giordano vividly recalls her first trip to the tournament, which included a loss to eventual champion Arizona and then Auburn.
Giordano hopes to eventually become a college head coach. Her career trajectory is on the right track.
“College girls are different than high school girls,” she said. “At any level, as a female coach, you have to earn your players’ respect. Even though I played, I had to earn their respect and they had to earn my respect. I had to show them I was serious about this.”
Giordano had a storied playing career for Marist. She is the program’s career leader in batting average at .371, hits with 236, doubles with 50 and at bats with 635. She’s second in runs with 118 and fourth with 22 home runs.
Going to the NCAA Tournament as a player was memorable. Giordano said she anticipates this weekend to surpass her previous experience.
“I’m just as excited as I was or even more so, because I know what it’s like to be there,” Giordano said.
Whatever happens, one thing is certain: Marist has never reached the NCAA Tournament without Melissa Giordano in uniform.