Hired as the eighth head coach in the history of the Valpo women's basketball program in April 2018, Mary Evans enters her third year at the helm of the program in 2020-21.
Evans led the Valpo program to a remarkable season across the board in 2019-20, one that concluded among the nation's top turnarounds from the season before. Valpo posted a 17-12 record in Evans' second season at the helm, the 17 wins the most by a Valpo team since the 2006-07 campaign and the 10th-most in a single season in program history.
Valpo improved its record by 10.5 games over the previous season in 2019-20, tied for the sixth-best improvement in Division I. Even more impressively, Valpo jumped by 171 spots in the RPI in Evans' second season as head coach, the nation's largest RPI jump.
With the 17 victories came many notable accomplishments throughout the season. Nine of the 17 wins came on the road, giving Valpo its highest number of true road wins since the 2001-02 season. Valpo concluded the non-conference portion of the schedule with an 8-3 record, the best pre-conference mark by winning percentage in program history.
That non-conference slate ended with seven straight wins, which was Valpo's longest winning streak since the 2001-02 team won 10 straight and was just the seventh winning streak of at least seven consecutive games in program history. Valpo also posted a perfect 5-0 mark in December, just its third-ever perfect month.
Conference play brought more of the same for Evans and the 2019-20 Valpo squad. Valpo posted a 9-9 record in MVC play, finishing the regular season with both its highest win total and its best conference finish (6th) since joining the MVC. Most impressively, this record came in a conference which finished the year ranked eighth among Division I leagues, matching its best-ever finish and trailing just the Power Five, the Big East and the Ivy League.
The nine conference wins included victories at Illinois State and at home over UNI - the program's first wins over top-100 RPI teams since March 2013. In fact, the road win at Illinois State was the program's first true road victory over a top-100 program since March 2002.
Under Evans' guidance, Valpo was again one of the nation's most prolific shooting teams. For the second straight season, Valpo averaged 8.6 3-pointers made per game, a mark which led the MVC and ranked 15th nationally. With 250 total made 3-pointers, the 2019-20 season moved into second place in a single season in program history.
Valpo was also exceptional from the free throw line, setting a single-season record with a team free throw percentage of .792, a clip which was good for fourth in the nation. Individually, Grace Hales set Valpo's single-season mark with an .890 free throw percentage and ranked ninth nationally.
Evans' defensive style also was on full display in 2019-20. Valpo's aggressive switching defense resulted in a conference-high 10.3 steals/game to rank 27th nationally. Valpo also boasted the MVC's steals leader in Carie Weinman, a member of the conference's All-Defensive Team.
In her first season at the helm, Evans’ impact was immediately clear. She led Valpo to its best 3-point shooting season in program history as the team shattered the program record for made 3s in a season with 276, breaking the previous mark of 224 that had stood since 1991-1992. Not only did the 3-point barrage set school history, but it cracked the Missouri Valley Conference record book. The team’s total number of made 3s was the seventh-most in the rich history of The Valley. Valpo finished in the Top 25 nationally by averaging 8.6 made 3-pointers per game and ranked 20th in the nation in total made 3-pointers.
Entering the 2018-2019 season, Valpo had made 13 or more 3s in a game 17 times in the entire history of the program. That feat occurred six times in Evans’ first season alone. Valpo had 15+ 3s in a game only three times in program history before Evans took over and reached that mark twice in her first season. One of those games with 15+ made 3s came on Dec. 21 vs. Bowling Green, when the squad swished 17 triples to match a single-game program record that had stood since 2004.
Under Evans’ guidance, Valpo had two 400-point scorers in the same season for the first time since 2007-2008 in 2018-2019 as Addison Stoller and Meredith Hamlet each surpassed that mark. Stoller joined Dani Franklin and Tabitha Gerardot as the only Valpo players in a decade’s time with 400+ points and 200+ rebounds in the same season. Stoller had the most steals by a Valpo player since 2011-2012 with 67 and the most made free throws by a Valpo individual since 2007 with 109.
Evans instructed a Missouri Valley Conference All-Freshman Team honoree in her first season as Shay Frederick became the first Valpo player to garner that recognition in The Valley and the first to do so in any conference since Meredith Hamlet was a member of the 2015-2016 Horizon League All-Freshman Team.
Another staple of the program in Evans’ first season was an ability to win close games. The team won seven games decided by eight points or fewer, the program’s most since 2012-2013. One of those wins was a 79-77 decision over Indiana State on March 14 in the opening round of the MVC Tournament. Valpo turned a 13-point deficit into a victory, marking the team’s largest comeback since Jan. 13, 2013. That was Valpo’s first win over Indiana State since 2001, snapping a five-game head-to-head losing streak.
Valpo enjoyed an 81-74 win over Loyola on March 9, the first Senior Day of Evans’ head coaching tenure. Valpo turned a 26-point loss from the conference opener on Jan. 6 at Loyola into a seven-point win, exemplifying the progress of the program over the course of the season. Valpo had several other memorable showings in Valley play during Year 1 of the Evans Era, including a 93-49 win over Evansville on Jan. 20, Valpo’s most lopsided victory against a Division-I opponent in nine years. Another significant feat occurred on Feb. 1 vs. Bradley as three Valpo players scored 20 points or more in a single game, marking the first time that has occurred at Valpo in over 20 years.
Nov. 17, 2018 is a day Evans will never forget as she coached her team to a 78-76 victory over St. Francis Brooklyn, marking the first win of her coaching career. That day also saw Meredith Hamlet become the 15th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points. Hamlet finished out her noteworthy Valpo career by playing her final season under Evans in 2018-2019. She finished fifth in program history in career scoring with 1,350 points and fourth in made 3-pointers with 211.
Evans' team also thrived in the classroom during her first season at the helm, as the program received the NCAA Public Recognition Award for outstanding academic perfromance.
Evans, who spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio University before coming to Valpo, became the eighth head coach in program history on April 13, 2018. She brought 15 years of Division I experience with her to Northwest Indiana.
During her time on Ohio’s staff under head coach Bob Boldon, Evans helped the Bobcats to three seasons of 22 wins or more, three postseason appearances and three Top 75 RPI finishes. The 2014-15 team established a school record with 27 wins, a 21-win improvement from two years earlier and an 18-win improvement from the previous season. The Bobcats won the 2014-15 MAC regular season and tournament titles and reached the NCAA Tournament.
Evans spent the 2012-13 season at Youngstown State University, where she helped the Penguins to a 23-10 record and a first-round win at Indiana State in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). She has also coached at Georgia Southern University (2007-2012), the University of South Carolina, Aiken (2005-2007) and Seton Hall University (2001-2005).
The five-year stint at Georgia Southern provided Evans with the opportunity to work at her alma mater. She helped guide the 2009-2010 team to a 19-12 record, the program’s highest win total since 2002-2003.
During her time at Division II South Carolina, Aiken, Evans was an assistant coach and the recruiting coordinator, helping the program to its first 20-win season since 2001-2002 in 2006-2007.
At Seton Hall, Evans was on staff as the Pirates reached the WNIT in 2003-2004 and 2004-2005. She was the recruiting coordinator during the 2004-2005 season.
At Aiken, Evans worked under Mike Brandt, who provided her with the opportunity to run the defense. When she returned to Georgia Southern under Rusty Cram, she was the offensive coach and had the chance to run practices. For six seasons prior to her appointment as Valpo head coach, she served on Boldon’s staff, first at Youngstown State and then at Ohio.
Evans was a two-sport athlete at Georgia Southern, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 2000. She won four letters in basketball (1995-1999) and three in soccer during her time as a collegiate athlete. A native of Summerville, S.C., Evans was inducted into the Summerville High School Hall of Fame in 2008. She and her husband Daryl have two children, Keegan Thomas and Zoe Mae.