HOT SPRINGS – National Park College has named former Bryant Lady Hornets’ star Jessica Taylor its first softball head coach in school history, leading the Nighthawks in their inaugural 2019-2020 season.
A Bryant native, Taylor enjoyed an extraordinary career as the starting catcher for the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, earning All-Southland Conference honors in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and consecutive Female Student Athlete of the Year honors in 2014 and 2015. To date, Taylor remains UCA’s softball record holder for career and single-season home runs and runs batted in and ranks in the school’s top-10 players in more than 10 offensive categories.
“When I saw this place and how it has grown so much over the past couple of years, understanding Coach Hudnell’s vision for how he wants the athletic department to go, that made me really excited to see the potential here and I wanted to be a part of that,” Taylor said.
Although NPC is Taylor’s first stint as a head coach, she served as Graduate Assistant Coach for UCA softball for two seasons while pursuing her master’s degree in Business Administration.
“Obviously, I want to be able to develop softball players, but I also really want to develop good people,” Taylor said. “Softball and sports in general are a lot bigger than the actual game that you are playing. It’s a sisterhood. It’s a community and to be able to see people grow as athletes, as students, and as individuals is a special thing to be a part of and it’s what I want my program to be about.”
When asked why she chose NPC, Taylor said, “I noticed it was growing a ton … to be in a place that is not only growing as an institution but also developing athletics and developing softball for the state of Arkansas is really exciting to see as an Arkansas kid that grew up here. We have a lot of great talent in this state that doesn’t get looked at a lot, so it is a good opportunity for those players to be able to continue playing softball and then maybe even develop and play somewhere after that while getting an education.”
“I am thrilled to have Coach Taylor lead Nighthawks softball,” NPC Athletic Director Jason Hudnell said. “She brings experience both as a coach and a player at the NCAA Division I level which will prove to be invaluable as we work to build a first-class softball program at NPC. I have already seen her knowledge and passion for working with student athletes. I could not be more excited about what the future of Nighthawks Softball will be under Coach Taylor’s leadership.”
Taylor and Nighthawks softball will hold tryouts Friday, June 7 at 10 a.m. at Kimery Park in Hot Springs.
For more information on Nighthawk athletics schedules, rosters and more, visit www.np.edu/athletics.