Arizona Softball

Arizona’s Caitlin Lowe & UNLV’s Kristie Fox reunite at Hillenbrand as opposing coaches

Their standout careers at Arizona mirrored each other.

They played for Mike Candrea from 2004-07, evolving into best friends from their time as freshman roommates on campus.

They were Candrea’s only four-year seniors as part of the 2007 national championship team (a repeat title from 2006).

They were in each other’s wedding parties.

They are now mothers of young children each juggling their time-demanding occupations with family life.

They are head coaches of successful D-I programs.

Their teams softball teams are each 16-4.

Caitlin Lowe and Kristie Fox are one in the same because they embody what was right during the Candrea era — winners with class, a sense of family and a love for the game.

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They will coach against each other for the first time Saturday at 4 p.m. when Arizona plays UNLV as part of the Bear Down Fiesta at Hillenbrand Stadium.

Arizona pitching coach Taryne Mowatt-McKinney was also a teammate of Fox and Lowe with the Wildcats when they won the Women’s College World Series titles in 2006 and 2007.

“The coaches at Arizona were my college roommates and college teammates so it’s a little different, but it’s exciting,” said Fox, who is 131-58 in her fifth season coaching at UNLV. “We’re all growing up and moving forward. Times have changed and the younger people are getting into coaching and kind of taking over.

“I’m excited to be back.”

Lowe’s bond with Fox goes beyond the game, and the game of softball is very significant for both of them.

“She was in my wedding; I was in her wedding,” Lowe said. “We were freshman year roommates and we lived together all through college. We’ve stayed in touch through all of this because it’s nice to have not just friends who are in the same business but honestly being a mom in this world.

“We’re all going through the same things. She’s tough. She’s competitive. Her husband is too. He coaches third base. It’s going to be a fight.”

Saturday’s game will actually be the second time a team coached by Fox will play Arizona at Hillenbrand. Fox coached Texas-Arlington against the Wildcats in the 2015 season and lost 10-2 against her former coach, Candrea.

She is 265-195 in her 10th season overall at Texas-Arlington and UNLV. Last season she was selected the Mountain West Coach of the Year after leading the Rebels to a 25-15 overall record and second-place finish in the conference at 14-7.

When Candrea retired last June after coaching the Arizona program to eight WCWS titles in 36 years, Fox posted this statement on her Twitter account: “Can’t even find the words. I’m very grateful to be a part of this Arizona Softball tradition that extends far between the white lines of the field, your influence on this sport and it’s players is everlasting. Thank you, Coach.”

Fox and Lowe are two of 12 former Candrea players at Arizona who are currently head coaches at different levels.

Candrea is in Las Vegas, Lowe’s new home, watching the Arizona men’s basketball team play in the Pac-12 tournament. According to a university employee, Candrea is there not only cheering on the Wildcats. He serves as a mentor for coach Tommy Lloyd — an objective with all of the Arizona coaches that he is taking on in retirement.

Much to the benefit of Fox and Lowe, they have been mentored by the legendary coach since they were recruited to Arizona in 2004.

Candrea’s visions of grandeur for the program when he recruited Fox from Mount Carmel High School in San Diego sticks in her mind. Candrea followed through on those recruiting promises with how Hillenbrand Stadium is now “absolute beautiful,” she said.

“I remember seeing the drawings on my recruiting trip saying, ‘Hey, this is what it’s going to be,'” Fox said. “And then how many long years later — I don’t want to date myself — now they have it. It’s beautiful. Coach Candrea left a legacy here.

“He built a wonderful program. I’ve learned a lot from him and I hope to do that wherever I’m at.”

Fox was standing between the renovated stadium and training facility beyond the left field fence. Her sons Andrew and Michael were running about while her eight-month-old daughter Lillian was in a stroller.

Moments after UNLV defeated Marist 18-3 in five innings Friday in the Rebels’ first game of the Bear Down Fiesta, Fox was back to being a mom in a place she called home for five years (she was also a graduate assistant in 2008 before becoming an assistant at Murray State in 2009).

“This place did not look like this when I was here,” said Fox, looking toward the batting cage area adjacent to the Lapan Family Center, a state-of-the-art team room and locker room. “It’s pretty special for these new student-athletes. At UNLV, my players, we still don’t have this, but they’re working hard and they’re playing for their school and trying to compete and make a name for themselves and that’s something I’m really proud of.”

She was in their shoes at Arizona with Lowe 15 to 20 years ago when the Wildcats won national championships without a state-of-the-art facility. Hillenbrand was home, nonetheless.

“I learned a lot from my time here just about the work ethic and what it takes to be successful at the highest level and what it takes to be a part of those championship teams,” Fox said. “Not being entitled and having to really work and fight for everything you get is pretty special.”

Arizona fans will definitely greet Fox with an ovation before the game against her alma mater, but she said she expects the Wildcat faithful to remain loyal to their team throughout.

Looking across the diamond and seeing Arizona and Lowe in the opposite dugout will be a special moment for her.

“I’m a supporter of this program,” Fox said. “I wish them the best every single game except for the game when I’m on the other side.

“I just hope my team stays composed, competes and we get after it.”

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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