NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont University Softball head coach Megan Rhodes Smith has rounded out her coaching staff with the addition of assistant coaches Kelsey Cartwright and Laura Dukes.
"When putting this staff together, I specifically wanted two people who would not only bring ability and knowledge, but also bring a balance with their personalities," Rhodes Smith said. "Both coaches are extremely passionate and driven, but also complement my style and skill set, as well."
Cartwright transitions full-time into higher education after organizing and running her own high-level softball camps throughout the state of Tennessee while serving as an educator in the Metropolitan Nashville School District, where, as a behavior and special education teacher, she earned Teacher of the Year distinction in 2018. She also served as the head coach for Tennessee Fury Fastpitch, a highly-competitive travel team based in Chattanooga.
The Joelton native began her collegiate career at Auburn, emerging as a two-year starter for the Tigers, after excelling in high school as a National Gatorade Tennessee Softball Player of the Year and a UA High School All American. She finished her sophomore season ranked third on the team in hitting, second in runs scored, and tied in RBI.
Cartwright transferred to Lipscomb University to complete her collegiate playing career. As a Bison, she received First Team All-Conference honors, was named Second Team NFCA All-Region, and currently holds the program's single season homerun record (18).
"Kelsey brings a competitive quality to everything she does but also brings heart and sincerity. Her accomplishments as a player were due not only to talent but her intense drive and work ethic. She will do a tremendous job coaching for Bruin Softball," Rhodes Smith said. "I couldn't be more thankful to have her on board."
Rhodes Smith rounds out her staff with another assistant coach with Mid-State ties in Dukes. Prior to her arrival in Nashville, she spent the last two seasons at Division II Shepherd University in West Virginia, serving as an assistant coach. Last season was a breakout year for the Rams as the team went on to set the program record for single season wins in 2019 after posting 42 wins and made its first-ever NCAA Atlantic Region Super Regional appearance. Dukes assisted with player development on and off the field as the team saw three student athletes named to the Mountain East (MEC) All-Academic Team and seven named to the league's Commissioner's List.
Not a new face to the Ohio Valley Conference, Dukes logged a season at Austin Peay (2016-17) and also coached with the Tennessee Fury Platinum organization, serving as an 18U and 16U assistant coach, for four years.
The Dandridge, Tenn., native played collegiately at Middle Tennessee State garnering numerous honors including a First Team All-Conference nod, CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team honors, and three consecutive NFCA Academic All-America Scholar Athlete awards. Dukes also left her name imprinted in the Blue Raider record book with several single season records. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, she transferred to Lipscomb to conclude her collegiate career while pursuing a master's degree. During her stint with the Bisons, Dukes earned NFCA All-American Scholar Athlete honors, was an Atlantic Sun President's Scholar and served as the graduate assistant manager.
"Laura has a unique capacity to see the field and brings a beautifully analytic element to everything she does," Rhodes Smith said. "She sees what others don't and never stops working to make those around her better. She was made to coach, and I couldn't imagine not having her on staff."
"I believe we have a special staff that will whole-heartedly invest in our athletes and help them as they continue to grow into the best versions of themselves on and off the field," Rhodes Smith said.