Erika DeSanty says there are very few schools that would make her consider leaving Williams College and her native Berkshires.
One of those few places is prestigious Princeton University, and on Friday the Ivy League school announced that DeSanty is its new women’s golf coach.
"The hardest part is leaving my team and my family and friends in the area," said DeSanty, whose Ephs finished third in the Division III national tournament this spring. "Williams is an amazing place and a great place to be. I leave with a heavy heart, but professionally, this is a chance of a lifetime. I mean, we’re talking about Princeton."
There’s little doubt that being at Williams, with its superb academic reputation, played a role in her hiring -- the Division I school’s announcement pointed to the school’s superb academic credentials.
"We’re thrilled to welcome coach DeSanty to the Princeton family," Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux said in the announcement. "Erika is a dynamic, innovative leader. ... She has an impressive track record of success and we are confident that she will lead our women’s golf team to great success."
Given Princeton’s own high place in the higher education world, its should be a comfortable setting for the former Drury High School basketball star
"I feel like it is a lot like Williams.
The toughest job has been telling her team she’s leaving.
"Without a doubt, that was the worst part," she said. "At the same time, though, I am sure they will go on to do great things. They are great student-athletes and people."
DeSanty’s teams showed consistent improvement during her five years as coach, finishing no worse than eighth in the NCAA DIvision III Tournament and finishing fifth, fifth and third the past three seasons. Her first recruit, Georgiana Salant, captured the Division III individual title in this year’s tournament.
While there was a good chance to win a Division III national title in her future in Williamstown, that will much a much more daunting task in the Division I world where the powerhouse programs in the south, southwest and west tend to take home the titles.
"My first goal is to dominate the Ivy League,’ DeSanty said. "Harvard has dominated for the last five years. Princeton finished second last year and the team is returning a great group of athletes."
Among the returnees is the two-time Ivy League Player of the Year Kelly Shon.
When it was suggested that competing for a national title was out of the question, the always upbeat DeSanty was having none of it.
"Duke won the national championship and Stanford competes for championships," said DeSanty, pointing to two schools also known for their academics. "It’s not impossible, but it a uphill, longer path [to a national championship]."
When the 31-year-old applied for the job, she gave herself little chance of landing it.
"It was a long shot to say the least. I applied and three weeks later I was offered the position. It happened so fast." said DeSanty, who was told there were 180 applicants for the job vacated by Nicki Cutler. Cutler stepped down to pursue other career opportunities.
DeSanty said Williams Athletic Director Lisa Melendy and others at the school were supportive during the process.
"They encouraged me to go through the process," she said.
When she goes to the Princeton’s on-campus golf course, she’ll easily be able to think of her time with the Ephs,
"It looks down on the campus much like Taconic does," she said.
To contact Richard Lord: