Judson University’s Athletic Department welcomes Laura (Opie, ’01) Starkey as Head Softball Coach.
“I’m really excited to be back on campus and involved in the Judson community again. It has brought back great memories and I look forward to helping build the current softball program,” said Starkey. “My experience from Aurora allows me to see the expectations needed for a championship program and will help mold our team to be a championship-caliber, team-oriented squad with a strong work ethic and fundamentals. I am intense, yet patient and willing to work through adversity to learn from challenges and to grow through everything good or bad we experience. I have been a players’ coach, developing leaders on and off the field and pushing them to become better people as they go into their professional careers and get involved in their communities.”
Starkey returns to campus after an 18-season run as the top assistant coach at Aurora University, one of the top NCAA Division-III programs in the nation. While there, Starkey collaborated with the coaching staff to create and implement practice plans; helped develop and sharpen players’ physical and mental abilities; and challenged her players to be the best on and off the field. The Judson alumna assisted in player evaluation and used strategies to maximize each player and the team as a whole. She mentored players in their future careers, encouraged them to become active leaders within their community, and helped scout and target talent to build a competitive and cohesive program.
“I can’t think of a better way to start my tenure than to have a coach of Laura’s caliber and experience lead our Softball team,” said Williams. “Her intensity, patience, and calming sense of stability will benefit all of our softball athletes and Judson athletics as a whole. We are very blessed to welcome Laura back home to Judson!”
Since 2010, Starkey has helped Aurora record at least a .600 winning percentage in every season, including at least 26 wins except the COVID-shortened 2020 season where the Spartans held a 7-1 record at the time the season halted. In 2022, Aurora finished the season with a 31-8 record (.795 winning percentage), including a seven-game win streak to start the season and a 19-5 (.792) (conference record). During most of her tenure at Aurora, Starkey also worked as a portfolio analyst and an auction manager at the Donlen Corporation from 2008-2016.
As an Eagle, Starkey played softball from 1998-2001 and basketball from 1997-1998. As a softball player, Starkey was a four-year starter in softball and was named to the NCCAA All-Region Team (as a Junior and Senior), the CCAC (Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference) All-Conference Team, CCAC All-Tournament Team, and was a team captain and team MVP as a Senior. Starkey recorded 85 career hits, and 17 stolen bases, in 306 career at-bats. All three stats were top-10 program records at the time. She was a part of the first two teams to have a .500 or better winning percentages in over a decade as the 1999 team had a 14-13 record, while the 2000 team had a 17-16 record.