Joanna Hardin is in her seventh season as the head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers after taking over the program prior to the 2017 seaason.
Under her guidance this past season, the Cavaliers are coming off one of the best seasons in a decade as Virginia finished sixth in the ACC standings and tied the program record for wins in conference play with 13 ACC victories. She coached her squad to the postseason with a berth in the National Invitational Softball Championship and saw three players earn All-Region honors as catcher Leah Boggs, designated hitter Tori Gilbert and shortstop Katie Goldberg were all recognized by the NFCA.
In the 2021 season, one featuring a heavy ACC slate and few non-conference games due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Hardin led the Cavaliers to 10 wins in ACC – play the second most in program history and the most since the 2010 season when Virginia picked up 13 conference wins. Virginia picked up series wins against Pittsburgh and Boston College, while also splitting the weekend series with NC State and North Carolina.
During the shortened 2020 season, Hardin led Virginia to its best start since 2012 with an 8-4 record through 12 games. The Cavaliers also carried a winning record into ACC play for the first time since the 2012 season. When the season was cut short by COVID-19, Virginia’s pitching staff had worked to a 3.70 ERA under Hardin’s guidance. The mark was the program’s best since 2013 and sophomore Aly Rayle’s 2.91 ERA was the best since All-ACC pitcher Melanie Mitchell worked the circle for the Cavaliers from 2010-2013. Rayle’s .188 opponent batting average was the lowest by a UVA pitcher since 2006 and second-lowest mark of the century.
In 2019, Hardin led Virginia to its most wins since 2012. The Cavaliers also returned to the ACC Tournament for the second time in three seasons under Hardin. With 20 ACC victories, Hardin is already third all-time among UVA coaches in league wins.
The Cavaliers also swept a pair of ACC series in 2019, marking the first occurrence since 2010. Under her leadership, Lacy Smith broke the Virginia single-season home run record, hitting 15 during the campaign. Smith went on to earn First Team All-ACC, All-Region and Softball America All-America honors. She was the fourth Cavalier to be named All-America and the first since 2004.
In her first year at the helm, Hardin led the Cavaliers back to the ACC Tournament for the first time in three seasons and improved the Virginia win total by eight games. The Cavaliers won nine ACC games, the second most in school history.
Hardin had Virginia playing its best softball down the stretch, winning eight of its final 10 regular season games, including a seven-game win streak and series wins over Georgia Tech and eventual NCAA Tournament qualifier Notre Dame. Her first season was also highlighted by the Cavaliers first win over a ranked opponent since 2014, defeating No. 14 James Madison, 5-4 on the road.
Under Hardin’s tutelage, the 2017 Cavalier offense was among the most potent in the ACC, ranking in the top five in slugging percentage (3rd), doubles (2nd), triples (2nd), home runs (5th) and total bases (3rd). A pair of Cavaliers went on to earn All-ACC honors while catcher Katie Park became the program’s first National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) First Team All-Region selection since 2013.
In 2018, Hardin mentored another All-Region selection in outfielder Allison Davis. The 2018 squad kept the long-ball going, launching 52 home runs to finish fourth in the ACC. The Cavaliers also finished in the top five of the ACC in RBI (210), doubles (73) and slugging (.437).
Prior to Virginia, Hardin spent the last four seasons at McNeese State, the first two as an assistant coach with the Cowgirls. She also has served as an assistant coach at Liberty University from 2007-09, with a stint as the head coach at Jefferson Forest High School in Forest, Va.
In her two seasons as head coach at McNeese State, Hardin led the Cowgirls to a 79-34 record including the Southland Conference championship and an NCAA Regional in 2016. Under Hardin’s guidance, sophomore Erika Piancastelli received All-America honors from the NFCA in 2015 and 2016. She is the first All-America selection in McNeese State program history.
In 2016, Hardin led the Cowgirls to a 43-14 record as McNeese State claimed the Southland Conference regular-season championship and the Southland Conference Tournament championship. The Cowgirls posted a 23-4 record in conference play and competed in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional. In regional play, McNeese State opened the tournament with a win over perennial national power Arizona State. The Cowgirls were eliminated from the Regional after falling to host LSU, who would advance to the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series as a national seed, and the Sun Devils in a 14-inning game in the second meeting between the teams.
Several players excelled under Hardin’s tutelage at McNeese State with Piancastelli leading the way as a two-time Southland Player of the Year and Hitter of the Year selection. Eight players also earned All-Southland Conference honors in 2016.
In 2015, her first season as head coach, Hardin coached Piancastelli to Southland Hitter, Player and Freshman of the Year honors. It was the first time a player had ever won all three honors in the league’s history. Hardin also coached Alanna DiVittorio to Southland Player of the Year and Hitter of the Year honors in 2014, while Jamie Allred claimed Southland Pitcher of the Year honors that same season.
During the 2014 campaign, McNeese State broke or tied 23 school or conference records. The Cowgirls ranked in the Top 50 in the nation in ERA, stolen bases and triples per game. Four players ranked in the Top 50 in the nation in 11 different statistical categories. McNeese State’s pitching staff included two of the top four pitchers in the SLC to lead the conference in ERA, while ranking 44th nationally.
In 2013, Hardin guided the pitching staff to a Top 10 national ranking and the top spot in the Southland in team ERA with a 1.79 mark. That squad also led the conference in opponent batting average (.220), saves (6), hits allowed (294), runs allowed (122), earned runs allowed (91), walks allowed (53) and extra-base hits allowed (63). Individually, Hardin helped develop the SLC’s top pitcher, Megan Bond, who led the conference in ERA (1.27), opponent batting average (.200), and saves (3).
Hardin began her coaching career as the head coach at Whittier Christian High School in La Habra, Calif., from 2005-07 and helped guide the Heralds to an Olympic League championship in 2006.
From 2007-09, Hardin served as assistant coach at Liberty University where she oversaw the pitching staff, conducted camps and clinics, and organized daily practices. In each of her two years at Liberty, the team finished the season as the Big South conference tournament runner-up. Under her guidance, Tiffani Smith was selected to the All-Big South Conference first team as a sophomore, the first Flame to receive such an honor since 2001.
After earning her Master’s Degree from Liberty University, Hardin started and coached a successful 12U/14U travel team, the Virginia Titans, in 2009. In 2010, while coaching the Titans, she served as head coach at Jefferson Forest High School where she led the Lady Cavaliers to the 2012 Seminole District Tournament Championship, a Virginia High School League (VHSL) Region III runner-up finish and the quarterfinals of the VHSL playoffs.
Hardin played softball for Biola University (La Mirada, Calif.) where she was a four-year letter winner from 2002-05. She was a four-time All-Conference and All-Region selection and earned NFCA All-America honors as a freshman in 2002.
She is married to Travis Hardin and the couple has one daughter.