Heading into her 25th season as the University of Tampa head softball coach, Leslie Kanter has built the program into a consistent threat to challenge for the Sunshine State Conference championship. At the helm, she has compiled a 622-433 record with 10 NCAA Tournament appearances. She is one of just three SSC coaches to have reached the 600-win mark,
She led her Spartans to their second straight Sunshine State Conference championship in 2015, and fourth overall. She coached Julia Morrow to SSC and South Region Pitcher of the Year honors while advancing to the program's fifth straight NCAA tournament.
Under Kanter, Tampa had a dominating pitching season in 2014, led by the duo of Kayla Cox and Julia Morrow. Cox was the SSC and South Region Pitcher of the Year while Morrow was the national leader in ERA. The Spartans finished the season with an overall record of 33-8 while winning the SSC with a 19-5 league mark. The team was ranked throughout the season, achieving the program's best-ever ranking at No. 2.
The 2013 season was a year where the program was ranked all season and earned a selection to the NCAA South Regional. Kanter coached Kayla Cox to first-team All-American honors as she became the program's first National Pitcher of the Year. The nation's ERA leader also garnered SSC Pitcher of the Year laurels while hurling seven no-hitters during the season.
In 2012, the Spartans finished 37-8 and advanced to the NCAA South Regional for the second straight year. UT also achieved its second consecutive ranking in the final NFCA top-25 poll, showing at No. 12. The Spartans were in the national rankings for the entire 2012 season, including a No. 5 showing for three of the final four installments. She also guided pitchers Deanna Henriott and Kayla Cox to All-American honors, marking the second and third Spartans in program history to be named to the elite group.
Kanter led her Spartan squad to the program's second straight appearance in the 2009 NCAA South Regional. In 2008, she guided UT to the regional final for the first time in program history. UT finished the 2008 season ranked No. 12 in the nation in the NFCA Division II Top 25 Poll, representing the lone final ranking for Tampa. UT spent a total of eight weeks in the 2008 national top 25, marking another first.
In 2007, Kanter led her squad to a 29-20 overall record as the Spartans equaled a school record with a 10 game winning streak. She also guided her team to four victories over nationally ranked opponents. That season, Kanter helped Devlin Dougherty become the sixth player in UT history on the all-South Region team.
When Kanter first arrived in Tampa for the 1995 season, she inherited a team that had won just 13 games and was predominantly rostered by walk-ons. In 1997, her program received an injection of new scholarship funds and her ensuing recruiting efforts reflected the improvement. In 1998, the Spartans posted their first winning season in four years and were rewarded with four all-Sunshine State Conference selections, including a sophomore and two freshmen recruited by Kanter.
In 2000, her team equaled a then-school record for victories with 28 and posted a winning SSC ledger. Following the successful 2000 season, the Spartans continued to improve as they won the 2001 Sunshine State Conference Championship and posted a 33-16 record, shattering the school’s previous record for victories in a season. In that same year, Kanter’s squad was ranked in the NCAA II poll for just the second time in school history at #25.
In 2002, UT reached its highest ever national ranking at number four after jumping to a 10-0 start with victories against four nationally ranked teams. In just its second NCAA Tournament appearance, Tampa won its first two NCAA Tourney games, posting a 2-2 record in the South Regional. During the regular season, Tampa had its first perfect game pitched by Christy Exizian.
Prior to taking the helm of the women’s softball program in 1995, Kanter was an assistant coach to Michelle Lamont from 1990-93 and was on staff when the Spartans won their previous school record of 28 games, finishing second in the Sunshine State Conference behind national champion Florida Southern.
During Kanter’s tenure as assistant coach at UT, the Spartans recorded a five-year streak of winning seasons, earned the school’s first national ranking in softball at No. 18 in 1992 and produced a conference Co-Player of the Year.
Kanter earned all-area and all-sectional honors in three years while playing at the University of South Florida and in 1986, she earned All-Region and first-team All-America honors.
In 2003, Kanter received the highest recognition from her alma mater when she was inducted into the USF Hall of Fame in 2005. Kanter was also inducted into the USSA Softball Hall of Fame in November of 2007, which is known as the highest honor in the sport.
In June of 2005, Kanter coached the United States to a gold medal at the Maccabiah Games (Jewish Olympics) in Israel.
Leslie Kanter's Collegiate Coaching Career
|2001||Tampa||34-15||SSC Champions, NCAA South Regional|
|2002||Tampa||34-14||NCAA South Regional|
|2004||Tampa||33-14||NCAA South Regional|
|2008||Tampa||35-13||NCAA South Regional|
|2009||Tampa||27-14||NCAA South Regional|
|2011||Tampa||39-9||NCAA South Regional|
|2012||Tampa||37-8||NCAA South Regional|
|2013||Tampa||33-10||NCAA South Regional|
|2014||Tampa||33-8||NCAA South Regional|
|2015||Tampa||28-13||NCAA South Regional|
|Totals||24 seasons||622-433 (.589)||
10 NCAA appearances