Westmoreland Alumni Q&A with Lea Coffman

The former Burrell softball standout is in her senior season at Gannon

Wed Apr 19, 2023 - 11:21AM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers

Last Updated: Wed Apr 19, 2023 - 10:04AM

While some athletes fortunately avoid serious injuries during their career, most have to endure ailments that require months or years of rehabilitation. Former Burrell softball standout Lea Coffman falls into the latter category, as she has sustained numerous shoulder injuries during her time playing for Gannon University. She has persevered, however, and has become a key piece for the Golden Knights. Coffman is under the microscope for the Westmoreland Alum Q&A.

Coffman began her high school career at Burrell in 2016, as the Buccaneers posted a record of 11-5 overall, including 8-2 in section play. The Bucs made the WPIAL Class AA playoffs, but fell to Steel Valley in the first round to conclude the campaign.

As a sophomore, Coffman earned a starting spot at catcher. That year, Burrell went 8-8, including 5-5 in section action. Back in the WPIAL postseason in Class 3A, the Bucs defeated McGuffey in the first round, but lost to Ellwood City in the quarterfinals.

In 2018, Coffman batted .500 with five home runs and 22 RBIs. Her production helped Burrell post a mark of 12-5, including 8-2 in the section. The Buccaneers returned to the 3A postseason and again bested McGuffey, but fell to Avonworth in the quarterfinals.

As a senior in 2019, Coffman helped lead Burrell to a mark of 13-3, including 9-1 in the section slate. However, Burrell lost to Keystone Oaks in the WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinals to conclude the season.

Following her graduation, Coffman continued her career on the diamond with Gannon. She appeared in just four games during the abbreviated season, as the Golden Knights went 9-8 before COVID forced the rest of the campaign to be cancelled.

In 2021, however, Coffman ascended to a key role with the team. Appearing primarily at third base, she played in 29 contests, including 28 starts, posting a batting average of .273 with one home run, 13 RBIs, and eight runs. Collectively, the Golden Knights went 28-15, including 23-9 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). In the PSAC Tournament, which was shifted to a best-of-three series format, the Golden Knights swept California University of Pennsylvania, but fell to Seton Hill University in three games to conclude the season.

Last campaign, Coffman was hindered by a shoulder injury that required surgery, as she played in 18 contests, including 11 starts. During that action, she hit .188 with one homer, four RBIs, and three runs. The Golden Knights compiled a record of 19-18, including 10-6 in the PSAC. Back to the traditional PSAC Tournament elimination format, Gannon defeated Cal U, but fell to East Stroudsburg and Shippensburg.

In her senior season, Coffman has played in 27 games, including 23 starts. To this point, she’s registered a .206 average with two homers, 13 RBIs, and nine runs. Gannon has achieved a mark of 13-19 overall, but 12-8 in the PSAC ledger.

Lea took time out of her schedule to respond to questions about the challenges of her recovery from injury, the significance of her academic honors, and which actress she’d choose to portray herself in a movie.

Q: What are your best attributes as a player?

A: As a player, I believe my best attributes can be made up of a few things. Being motivated has always been my strong suit in athletics. Having the attitude that hard work can beat talent has been instilled in me since I was a kid from my dad. Another is natural leadership. I take pride in trying to lead by example and working hard so others will follow, but also vocalizing. As a teammate, I am your biggest supporter and cheerleader, no matter what.

Q: You have battled multiple injuries during your time at Gannon. What have been the biggest challenges in your recovery?

A: Throughout my four years at Gannon, three of those years I struggled with a shoulder injury. One of the biggest challenges was learning to adapt to my way of playing; understanding I may not have the arm strength I used to have, but learning how to have a quick transition and reaction time can be just as effective.

Q: You have shifted from catcher to corner infielder. How have you handled that transition?

A: Taking a step away from catching was very difficult after playing the position for most of my life, but focusing on both third and first base gave me a new and exciting challenge. I have fully embraced both positions and have loved every second of it.

Q: What team and individual goals did you set for this season?

A: Sitting out most of the fall due to injury made me realize going into my final season that I had to make the most of every moment I step on the field. The goal I set for myself was to embrace every moment on the field, from a strikeout to a home run. This was my last season to put everything I had out on the field, so I knew I would never be left with the feeling that I wish I could do more. As for the team, we have always had the ultimate goal of acting like a family and, with achieving that, we will win games. After a rocky start in spring training, we came back to Erie ready to work together and to support one another, no matter what. We have come together as a team and learned that momentum and having each other’s back is enough to fuel the fire that we were missing in Florida.

Q: What led to your decision to attend Gannon?

A: When looking for colleges to attend, I was not positive what I wanted in a school. After attending a pretty small high school, I knew I wanted smaller classroom sizes but to still get the big school experience, and I felt that Gannon gave that to me. As soon as I walked on campus, I felt at home and this was the place where I was supposed to be. And looking back, I know I made the right decision. I have made lifelong friendships that I will cherish forever.

Q: What is your major and ideal future profession?

A: I am graduating in May with a major in finance and minor in marketing. Ideally, I would love to be a loan officer one day.

Q: What has been your most enjoyable college course?

A: I have taken many enjoyable courses here at Gannon, but some of my favorites were Investment & Portfolio Management, Sports Marketing, and World Issues.

Q: You have been honored three times as a PSAC Scholar-Athlete. What do those accolades mean to you?

A: I am very proud to be a three-time PSAC Scholar-Athlete. Being a student-athlete is a very difficult and a time-consuming task, so being able to excel in academics and athletics is a very important accomplishment to me. It shows that all the hard work you put yourself through pays off.

Q: You attended Burrell High School. What was your fondest memory from your time there?

A: My fondest memories from Burrell are the relationships I built throughout my four years of high school. My teammates, Sara Clark, Kayla Santucci, and Brittany Dunn, are still three of my closest friends, along with the coaches, especially Rick Nealer. He pushed me to my full potential in high school.

Q: Do you still follow Burrell athletics?

A: I am still very involved with the Burrell softball program. I found myself at practices over every summer and winter break, getting extra reps and helping with practices the past four years. I plan to continue to be a part of the program and help out as much as I can upon graduation.

Q: Do you have any superstitions or rituals before, during, or after a game?

A: In high school, I was very superstitious about wearing the same sliding shorts, socks, headbands, and other stuff. In college, you soon realize with the volume of games played, this is not very doable. A new ritual my group of friends adapted this year is about ten minutes before warmups, we all play the same song and listen to it at the same time.

Q: If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

A: Oddly enough, one of my favorite foods is meatballs. I would say any pasta with a side of meatballs would be my ideal meal.

Q: Who would you choose to portray yourself in a movie about your life?

A: Blake Lively for sure!

Q: If you were stranded on an island with one teammate, who would you choose?

A: I would definitely choose my best friend and roommate, Lauryn Rouguex. I have never gotten along with someone better and just laugh as hard as I do when I am with her. We would be stranded, but we would definitely make the most of it!