Coaching Staff

Courtney Deifel
Head Coach

Courtney Deifel became the fourth head coach in program history when she was hired June 11, 2015. In four seasons at Arkansas, she has orchestrated the Razorbacks’ return to postseason play, capping the 2019 campaign by earning a spot in the SEC Tournament and selection to the NCAA Tournament.

Deifel led the Razorbacks to their third consecutive post-season appearance, becoming the only coach in program history to do so. With Deifel at the helm, Arkansas closed out the 2019 season, 38-20 and 12-12 in SEC play. It marks the first time since 1999-00 that the Razorbacks finished the season .500 or better in conference play in back-to-back seasons.The Razorbacks garnered their highest in-season ranking during weeks one and two, coming in at 12th and 11th in the NFCA and ESPN polls respectively.

Arkansas saw two players named to the All-SEC teams, pitcher Autumn Storms was named second team and outfielder Hannah McEwen garnered first-team recognition. McEwen’s first-team selection was the first for Arkansas since 2012 and only the second in program history. In year four under Coach Deifel, the Razorbacks also earned two SEC Player of the Week awards, three SEC Pitcher of the Week awards, and one USA Softball Co-Player of the Week. A record five Razorbacks were named to the NFCA All-Region teams, with Storms garnering the first, first-team selection of her career. Storms went on to be named NFCA Second Team All-American as a pitcher, the first Razorback since 2010.

Year four with Coach Deifel and the Razorback staff saw growth in all aspects as the game, including a team .288 batting average, which ranks second-highest in the record books. In fact, four of the top seven team batting averages in program history come from the Deifel-era.

In her third season, Arkansas wrapped up the year with a 42-17 record, the third most wins in program history; and the highest number since 2000. The team earned the program’s first-ever NCAA national seed and hosted the Fayetteville Regional on its way to securing a spot in this weekend’s Norman Super Regional. For their efforts, the coaching staff earned 2018 NFCA Division I South Region Staff of the Year. The team also finished 17th in the final NCAA RPI.

Two seasons removed from a one-win conference tally, the Razorbacks posted a 12-12 record in SEC and earned a No. 7 seed into the SEC Tournament where the team made a run to the semifinals for the first time since 2001. The Razorbacks finished the season with a 27-2 record on their home field, established a new program record for home wins in a single season. Part of Arkansas’ home triumphs included the program’s first three-game sweep of a ranked team (No. 20 Mississippi State) and its first-ever series win over Alabama.

In her second season in Fayetteville, Deifel guided Arkansas to a 31-24 record which marked a 17-win improvement from the previous season, marking the largest increase in the country among Power 5 programs. The Razorbacks also tallied seven wins in SEC play, equaling the combined total from the previous three seasons. In recognition of the team’s performance, Deifel was named the 2017 D1SoftballNews Coach of the Year.

From year one to two under Deifel, Arkansas’ pitching staff lowered its combined ERA by more than four runs (6.98 to 2.82) and added more than 20 points to its batting average (.260 to .284). The Razorbacks also led the SEC and tied for 17th in the NCAA with 59 home runs. During the year, Arkansas earned its first national ranking since 2013 when it was slotted at No. 24 in the March 7 release ESPN/USA Softball poll.

Individually, Deifel saw two Razorbacks earn NFCA All-South Region accolades with Nicole Schroeder and Autumn Storms earning second-team and third-team honors, respectively. Storms was also named to the SEC All-Freshman Team while A.J. Belans was voted to the All-SEC Second Team. Schroeder went on to be drafted by the Akron Racers as the program’s second NPF selection.

Deifel’s first win over a ranked team at Arkansas came during the 2016 season when the Razorbacks knocked off No. 23 Nebraska, 11-10, during the Easton Tournament in Fullerton, Calif.; the team added five ranked wins in 2017. The 2016 campaign also saw newcomer Ashley Diaz make an immediate impact as a member of the NFCA All-South Region Second Team. She also appeared on the NFCA National Freshman of the Year Top 25 Watch List.

During her playing and coaching careers prior to coming to Arkansas, Deifel advanced to 11 NCAA Tournaments including a four-year run to the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) as an All-American catcher at California that was highlighted by winning the 2002 national title. The Bears also finished second (2003), fifth (2001) and seventh (2000) at the WCWS over her four-year run. Her postseason successes also featured a pair of Super Regionals as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma and five NCAA Regionals as an assistant at Maryland and Louisville.

As a first-year head coach, Deifel ushered in a culture of change for Maryland in 2015. Along with the program’s 16-game improvement from the previous season, the Terrapins’ offense show tremendous growth. Maryland finished 27th in the NCAA with 6.28 runs per game behind 339 runs scored, up more than 150 runs from 2014. Deifel also led her team to a .309 batting average, a 40-point jump from 2014 which also ranked 57th in the NCAA.

Individually, Deifel guided three players to all-conference accolades and a pair of NFCA all-region honors. Lindsey Schmeister was an All-Big Ten first team performer while Shannon Bustillos and Erin Pronobis landed on the All-Big Ten second team. Probonis and Corey Schwartz were also named to the NFCA All-Midwest Region Third Team. Under Deifel’s watch, the trio helped Maryland to single-season school records in doubles, home runs, RBI and walks.

Prior to taking the head job at Maryland, Deifel spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Louisville in which she helped the Cardinals to four NCAA appearances, the 2014 American Athletic Conference Tournament title and an overall record of 176-60 (.746). Louisville averaged 44 wins in that time with a program-record 55 wins in 2012. Her student-athletes at Louisville racked up four NFCA All-America certificates and 29 all-conference selections.

Deifel played in 285 games in her career at California, missing just three games behind the plate over her four years. As a four-year starter behind the plate, she was a 2003 All-American, two-time All-Pac 10 selection and caught seven no-hitters. She is still the program’s career leader with 1,969 putouts.

Aside from her accomplishments in collegiate softball, Deifel had a successful professional career following her days at Cal. In 2004, she helped the NY/NJ Juggernaut to the National Professional Fastpitch (NPF) league title. Deifel also spent three years with LeoPalac21 in Japan that resulted in a runner-up showing and a pair of third-place finishes.

Deifel and husband Joe are the parents to two sons, Trip and Walt. The family resides in Fayetteville.

Yolanda McRae
Assistant Coach

Yolanda McRae just completed her fourth season as an assistant coach for the Razorbacks, having joined the program with head coach Courtney Deifel prior to the 2015-16 season. McRae was part of Deifel’s coaching staff at Maryland. Along with her time at Maryland, the Dublin, Ga., native has previous experience at Georgia, Georgia Tech and Virginia.

The 2019 was one of the most impressive offensive performances by the Razorbacks in Arkansas history. As a team, the Hogs finished with a .288 batting average, second-best in Arkansas history. The Razorbacks also recorded a .445 slugging percentage and a .374 on-base percentage, both top three season performances by a team.

McRae has guided the growth of outfielder Hannah McEwen, who in 2019 recorded a .386 average at the plate, the highest by any Razorback ever. McEwen finished the regular season McEwen started the season named to Softball America’s Top 100 Player Rankings and finished her sophomore campaign as a First Team All-SEC selection. She is only the second Razorback to earn first-team honors, and only 1-of-3 to garner All-SEC recognition in back-to-back seasons.

Working day-to-day with the Razorbacks’ hitters since her arrival in Fayetteville, McRae saw a 24-point increase (.260 to .284) from 2016 to 2017. Arkansas finished seventh in the SEC in batting average, up from 12th in the previous season. The offense also generated 54 more runs—in one fewer game—from season one to two under McRae’s watch.

The Razorbacks’ 2017 campaign featured a power display that ranked second in the SEC and tied for 17th in the NCAA with 59 home runs, up 10 big flies from the 2016 season. The 59 home runs represents the fourth-highest, single-season total in program history. Arkansas’ .468 slugging percentage was second in the SEC and 24th in the NCAA.

The charge was led by Nicole Schroeder and Tori Cooper who hit 17 and 10 home runs, respectively. McRae helped Schroeder earn a spot on the NFCA All-South Region Second Team, one season after then-freshman Ashley Diaz earned all-region accolades in 2016. Shortstop A.J. Belans who contributed eight home runs kicked off postseason honors with selection to the All-SEC Second Team.

Along with Maryland’s 16-win improvement in 2015, McRae helped the Terrapins’ offense take tremendous strides at the plate. The Terrapins hit .309 under McRae’s watch, a 40-point improvement from 2014, to go along with a jump from 20 to a program-record 69 home runs in 2015. With 339 runs, the team’s scoring was up more than 150 runs from the previous year.

Maryland finished the season fourth nationally in doubles and 27th in scoring and home runs. She helped Maryland to single-season team records in doubles, RBI and walks. Individually, McRae coached three All-Big Ten performers.

McRae is no stranger to success in the Southeastern Conference as a former coach and student-athlete at Georgia. She spent the 2006 and 2014 seasons as a volunteer assistant at Georgia. During their 2006 season, the Bulldogs won the SEC East title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. In her second coaching stint in Athens, McRae helped Georgia to the 2014 SEC Tournament title and an appearance in the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament. McRae was an outfielder for the Bulldogs in 2003 and was part of the program’s first-ever SEC regular-season title.

She spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons as an assistant coach at Virginia in which she guided the Cavaliers to increased offensive production. Compared to the season before McRae’s arrival, the UVA offense hit 17 more home runs—up to 29 from 12—during the 2012 campaign. McRae also coached Giannina Cipiolloni, the Cavaliers’ all-time leader in stolen bases. Under McRae’s watch, she registered 63 of her 89 career stolen bases.

McRae had two previous seasons at Maryland in 2010 and 2011 as an assistant coach. In that two-year span, Maryland tallied a 74-43 record with two appearances in the NCAA Tournament. During the 2011 season, the Terrapins posted the second-highest win total in program history with a 40-19 record which included a third-place finish in the ACC with a 12-7 mark. That same season, McRae helped lead four players to All-ACC accolades.

In her first role as an assistant coach, McRae spent three seasons (2007-09) at Georgia Tech where she helped lead the program to a three-year record of 132-62 (.680) and 216 home runs during her time in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets hit a nation-leading 96 home runs in 2007 which, at the time, stood as the No. 9 single-season tally in NCAA history. Georgia Tech was an NCAA Tournament selection in all three years with McRae including a Super Regionals appearance in 2009.

McRae also coached a pair of Olympians at Georgia Tech with Caitlin Lever and Jennifer Yee representing their native Canada at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Yee led the Canadian National Team in batting average and posted the fifth-best overall batting average (.348) during Olympic competition.

Matt Meuchel
Assistant Coach

On the heels of an eight-year run as the head coach at Nevada and two NCAA Tournament appearances, Matt Meuchel joined the Razorbacks’ coaching staff prior to the 2016-17 season. He has previous coaching experience at Arizona State, McNeese State and Oklahoma State.

In his first season in Fayetteville, Meuchel was part of a staff that helped orchestrate a 17-win increase and get the Razorbacks to the SEC and NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. Individually, the team had two All-SEC performers in A.J. Belans and Autumn Storms while Storms and Nicole Schroeder both earned NFCA All-South Region accolades.

Working with the Razorbacks’ infield, Meuchel’s tutelage resulted in a .968 fielding percentage which established a new program single-season record. At third base, Autumn Russell ranked eighth in the SEC with 134 assists while committing just five errors. Belans also finished inside the top 10 in the league with 131 assists from shortstop.

During his eight-season tenure as Nevada’s head coach, Meuchel guided his team to 196 victories. In 2016, the Wolf Pack posted a 32-15 overall record with a 10-10 mark in the Mountain West Conference. It was the program’s best season since joining the conference in 2013. Meuchel saw five of his student-athlete named to the 2016 All-Mountain West Conference Team including a pair of first-team selections.

After four years as an assistant coach for Nevada and two seasons with Oklahoma State, Meuchel returned to Reno as head coach in 2009 and responded by leading the team to a 40-19 record and an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. That season, Nevada tallied a 15-5 record within the Western Athletic Conference to claim a share of the regular-season title. Meuchel went on to earn his first NCAA victory as a head coach with a win over Cal Poly in the first round of the Palo Alto Regional.

Between his role as an assistant coach (2003-06) and head coach (2009-16) at Nevada, Meuchel helped the Wolf Pack collect 35 postseason all-conference individual accolades among 22 student-athletes including five WAC All-Tournament Team selections. That collection of awards included WAC Pitcher of the Year honors for Katie Holverson in 2009.

Meuchel was first hired at Nevada when the program was reinstated in 2003. After three seasons of rebuilding the program, and having been promoted to associate head coach, he was part of a postseason run in 2006 that included Nevada’s first-ever WAC Tournament title. With that triumph, Nevada advanced to the NCAA Tournament and played in the Corvallis Region, hosted by Oregon State.

The Missoula, Montana, native began his coaching career with assistant roles at Arizona State and McNeese State in 2001 and 2002, respectively. He also served as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State and helped four student-athletes to All-Big 12 honors in 2007 and 2008 between his two stints at Nevada. Meuchel returned to Reno as Nevada’s new head coach ahead of the 2009 season.

Along with his time as a collegiate coach, Meuchel carries past coaching experience at the international and professional levels. He was part of the coaching staff for the Greek softball team that competed at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Additionally, Meuchel spent the summers of 2011 and 2012 as an assistant coach for the USSSA Pride in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. The Pride posted a combined 61-21 record and won two NPF regular-season championships with Meuchel on the staff. During the summer runs, he coached eight All-NPF selections, five Olympic gold medalists and two NPF Players of the Year; and was part of the 2011 NPF Coaching Staff of the Year.

Meuchel was married in the summer of 2009 to Joey Hall, and the couple has two children, Hudson and Charlie.

Annie Smith
Volunteer Assistant

Annie Smith joined the Razorback staff in the summer of 2019 as a volunteer assistant. Smith comes to Fayetteville after stints at Auburn, LSU, Georgia Southern, Mississippi State and Missouri.

“I am thrilled to add Annie Smith to our staff,” Deifel said. “Not only is she a great coach, she is also an exceptional person. Annie is very well versed in what it takes to be successful in the SEC and her impact will be immediate.”

Since she began her career, Smith has coached eight All-Americans, 56 All-Conference selections and 41 All-Region honorees. Her squads have been equally as impressive in the classroom, garnering 123 NFCA Academic Scholar-Athlete honors.

Smith also boasts professional experience, as she was an assistant coach for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) in 2017.

Before rejoining the SEC, Smith served as the head coach at Georgia Southern, where she complied 176 wins and reached the NCAA Tournament twice. Smith and the Eagles captured the Southern Conference title in 2012 and in 2014. The Eagles also won the conference tournament in 2012 and 2013. For her efforts, Smith was honored as the conference’s coach of the year in 2012 and 2014.

“I am very thankful for the opportunity to join Coach Deifel and her staff at the University of Arkansas,” said Smith. “I am looking forward to calling Fayetteville home, continuing to coach in the SEC, while being closer to my parents. I cannot wait to get started. Wooo Pig!”

Smith currently stands as the quickest coach in Georgia Southern history to 100 wins, while her teams rewrote the record books for home runs, doubles and fielding percentage. She was instrumental in the development of the three-time conference pitcher of the year and the two-time freshman of the year in the league.

Before Georgia Southern, she spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Mississippi State before being promoted to associate head coach following the 2007 season. The Manhattan, Kan. native helped the Bulldogs to 295 victories and six NCAA Regional appearances. She worked with three USA Softball National Team members and the back-to-back SEC Player of the Year in 2003 and 2004.

Smith received her bachelor’s degree in history and psychology from Grinnell College where she was a captain on the softball team. She went on to earn a master’s degree from Missouri in health and exercise science with an emphasis in sports psychology.