When it comes to legendary Montclair State University athletic figures, a couple of key names come to mind. Sam Mills, Carol Blazejowski and Rick Giancola are just a few of the iconic names in Red Hawk athletics.
But while football and basketball usually take up most of the attention here at Montclair State, one of the greatest coaches to ever grace the campus is still going strong with the softball team after 32 years.
Anita Kubicka, a former player at Trenton State University in the 1980s, now called The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), explained what it is that keeps her going as a coach after so many years.
“I like when I can make a difference,” Kubicka said. “When you have the ones that call you and want you to save the date for their wedding and when you have the ones that are excited because they just painted their baby’s room, [your impact shows]. You have the good with the bad. I just had an [alumnus] whose mother recently passed away, so I talked to her years later through that. It’s more than just wins and losses. It’s caring about people.”
Kubicka cares so much about the players she coaches and the softball program as a whole that she helped create MSU Softball Stadium across from Dioguardi Field.
The stadium opened up in 2004 and is considered one of the elite softball fields in the region. It has hosted events like National Pro Fastpitch as well as hosted the NCAA Division III tournament in 2009.
But before Kubicka began her prestigious coaching career and even stepped foot at Montclair State, she got her reputation going at an early age playing for Trenton State. And not only did she help win Trenton State their first national championship, she was also named a First-Team All American.
Kubicka then moved on with her academic career and got a master’s in science in sports management from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMASS Amherst), where she also served as an assistant softball coach. In three years, the team received two Atlantic 10 championships as well as a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
But, Kubicka owes her success and inspiration to pursue her love for softball to two important people in her early years in the sport.
“I was under the tutelage of two hall-of-fame coaches: Dr. June Walker at [Trenton State] and Elaine Sortino from [UMASS Amherst],” Kubicka said. “I think the mentorship I had was excellent.”
The accolades she has encompassed over the years speak for themselves: Top 10 winning percentage; multiple wins among Division III coaches; 14 NCAA tournament appearances, including a runner-up finish in 1997 and a third-place selection in 1992 and 2012; 10 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) championships; and numerous New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Coach of the Year honors.
The greatest honor, however, was Kubicka being inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Hall of Fame in 2014.
Kubicka and the coaching staff also help the players in the classroom, with the softball team being ranked one of the best academic teams on campus. Coaching 39 All-Americans is one thing, but when the success translates into the classroom, as a Division III program, not much more can be asked for.
Kubicka explained how the players coming onto the team stay so consistent in academics as well as on the field.
“We try to do that from the front end and the recruiting end,” Kubicka said. “You get people that come in and care about academics, care about softball and are self-motivated. This is key because that makes my job easier since they want to be in the weight room and at practice for hours so that they can be the best student-athlete they can be.”
Kubicka’s influence also spreads onto the multitude of players she has coached in her 32-year career, including some of the current players now. Junior pitcher Ali Cavallarro, who was Second-Team All-NJAC last season, spoke about how Kubicka motivated her to improve her craft as a pitcher.
“My relationship with Kubicka is really good,” Cavallarro said. “When I got to [Montclair State], I didn’t throw as much, but the more I kept throwing, [Kubicka] was really good with me and helped me a lot throughout the season and this upcoming season as well.”
Another member within the Second-Team All-NJAC, sophomore outfielder Kayla Cosentino, said Kubicka has also meant a lot to her in the two years she has been a Red Hawk.
“She has been very influential,” Cosentino said. “I think she’s actually one of the best coaches I have ever met. She is very honest and helpful and she really likes to be positive with criticism.”
Ultimately, Kubicka can get all of the individual accolades she wants — 1,000 wins in her career, Coach Of The Year, etc. However, these awards won’t be as satisfying as seeing her team succeed, especially considering the Red Hawks haven’t seen a significant amount of postseason success in quite a long time. It’s been nearly nine years since the Red Hawks have won an NJAC title and the competition gets stiffer each year.
“I don’t view it as a legacy,” Kubicka said. “There is no difference [being viewed as an accomplished coach]. I think that right now, my focus has been trying to get back to the top of the pack in the NJAC. The goal right now is to play until May and in the NCAA tournament and beyond. That’s what I continue to strive for.”