Judson University was no stranger to Venus Taylor, who was an assistant coach with the Chicago Bandits when the Bandits played at the Elgin college.
So when Becky Pearl left the Judson softball job after 10 years to become the head coach at Lewis University, Taylor immediately had an interest in the job.
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On Monday, Eagles' athletic director Joel Cotton named the well-known former pro player as Judson's new coach. Taylor started her new job right away and had a hard time containing her excitement for the challenge ahead of her.
"I was attracted to Judson the moment I heard about it," Taylor said. "I was familiar with the campus from my time with the Bandits. There's great facilities and personnel at Judson and when I got to learn about the spirituality on campus it made me feel like family, like home.
"Becky did a great job with the program and started a great tradition. It's a great school to recruit at -- there's over 50 undergraduate programs. There's a strong tradition and everyone was really kind and warm from the get-go."
Taylor's softball resume is hard to match. Western Illinois University's Female Athlete of the Year in 1997, she still holds many of that school's softball records. She was inducted into the WIU Hall of Fame in 2009.
Taylor played in the NPF for seven years, winning the league title with the New York/New Jersey Juggernauts in 2002 and the Tampa Bay Firestix in 1999. She was a three-time NPF all-star.
She has an extensive coaching career that includes stints at Benedictine, Cal-Davis, Daytona Beach Community College, Georgia Tech, Lake City Community College (NJCAA National Champion) and Bradley, where she was head coach in 2004 and 2005.
Taylor has also spent considerable time in the business and marketing end of softball. She was director of fastpitch for Wilson Sporting Goods from 2006-11. In 2011, she developed a consulting company, Taylor Made Softball, which partners with the Bo Jackson Dome in Lockport. In addition to educational leadership and inspirational speaking, she developed travel softball teams as well. Her Taylor Made Titans 16U team finished second in the recent ASA 16U Northern National tournament in Moline, Taylor's hometown. The Aurora resident said she would continue to operate Taylor Made during her tenure at Judson.
"I look forward to watching our softball program continue to thrive under her guidance," said Cotton. "She is a champion and to bring that mentality of excellence to our department is something for which I'm very excited. She fits our need in a lot of areas and she's going to be outstanding for us. She'll continue to build off what Becky did and I think we've got some great years ahead of us."
Pearl departed Judson as the program's all-time winningest coach with 250 victories, including three 30-wins seasons and a CCAC championship in 2011. Taylor said she intends to keep the high level of play going along the Fox River.
"My goal is to make an impact and win right away," she said. "I want to go for it and leave it all on the field with no regrets. I like to play an aggressive style and be sharp on picking up weaknesses of the opponent. We will be aggressive and diverse in our roles.
"I'm really anxious to see the girls in a practice setting and see what I have to work with. Judson brings in the right kind of kid and it's the right kind of culture."
Judson finished 22-25 last year and 10-10 in the CCAC. The Eagles return several local players this year, including Katie Kirker and Nicky Chapa from Jacobs, Jenna Szabo of Streamwood and Lauren King of Burlington Central.