- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) - After graduating from Stillwater High School in 2006, Jessica Hauf Ruckman eagerly anticipated playing collegiate softball, while pursuing a nursing career, at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond.

She played multiple positions for coach Angela Knott’s Lady Pioneers, earning all-state and all-district honors as a senior. The future was bright for Ruckman, the daughter of R.B. and Anita Hauf, the Stillwater News Press (https://bit.ly/1GROPM9 ) reported.

Life, however, threw Ruckman several curve balls in her collegiate career. Injuries and a battle with mononucleosis eventually took a toll.

“I had a shoulder injury my freshman year and had reconstructive shoulder surgery after my freshman year,” Ruckman said prior to a recent Lady Eagle practice. “I could only hit and was the designated player most of my freshman year and part of my sophomore year.

“When I thought I was getting back on track I had mono really bad my junior year. It was so bad I had to move home. I also had a concussion and since I had a concussion in high school, the doctors were concerned about me playing,” said Ruckman, who played outfield for the Lady Eagles.

“It was one thing after another and I actually didn’t play my senior year. I didn’t feel like I ever had a full year when I was healthy. It was frustrating and definitely disappointing.”

The disappointment resulted in a career path change for Ruckman as doors began opening that allowed her to remain involved in the sport as a coach.

“I began encouraging the team from the sideline as a student assistant my senior year and a graduate assistant’s position opened up after I graduated in 2010,” she said. “I don’t think the position at OC would have happened if I hadn’t had the injuries and mono. I fell in love with coaching.”

Ruckman became a full-time assistant coach in 2012, joining head coach Tom Heath and assistant Steve Gault. Heath and Gault started OC’s program in 1995. She was promoted to associate head coach this season.

“I was excited about the promotion. I have more responsibility since we are transitioning from NAIA to Division II,” said Ruckman, who earned a master’s degree in sports administration.

“Coach Heath gave me a lot of those responsibilities. We had a three-year transition period but I’m excited that we will be Division II next year. It will be good for Oklahoma Christian. Things are good within our program as we opened the Lawson Softball Complex last year.”

Ruckman would enjoy being a head coach in the future, but for now she’s intent on helping the Lady Eagles, 25-19, advance through a five-team National Christian College Athletic Association Regional Tournament the school hosts this weekend. OCU is defending regional champion.

“Being a head coach is something I’ve thought about,” she said. “But, I love where I am now and enjoy sharing my experiences with these players.”

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Information from: Stillwater News Press, https://www.stwnewspress.com

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