NAPERVILLE — Everyone always wants to find a college that is the right fit, but in Vlasta Mangia’s case, she had somewhat unusual priorities.
When the 2010 Morton High School graduate was being recruited to play softball, she received interest from Division I programs, but chose Division III North Central.
Mangia has fit in so well at North Central that she broke two career school records – wins and innings pitched – before the end of her junior year.
Mangia first connected with Cardinals coach Jim Kulawiak, who coached Morton from 1986 to 1988 and led the Mustangs to a state title in 1986, when he watched her play for Morton during the playoffs of her junior year. She wanted the small-school atmosphere and the Chicago-area location, so everything fell into place.
“After taking my visit to North Central I felt like it was the right place,” she said. “The softball program here is really strong. If you look back at the program’s history, it’s been very successful for the past 25 years and since we’ve been here it’s been pretty much 20-plus win seasons.”
Mangia has been a big part of that success as the ace pitcher for three years and also a three-year starter in the lineup. In addition to her pitching prowess, Mangia led the Cardinals with a .385 batting average as a sophomore.
Setting the wins and innings pitched career marks at North Central allowed Mangia to stamp her name into the record books, but she understands that wins as a pitcher require help from the team.
“It’s obviously going to mean a lot because of the fact that now my name is here in the history books basically,” she said. “I have to give recognition to my teammates for all three seasons because without them I wouldn’t have been able to achieve those records.”
Mangia has been playing softball since T-ball and identifies more with pitching, but hitting for the Cardinals was another reason to like the program. She finished this regular season with a .368 batting average and a 1.23 ERA in the circle.
“If I would have went to a Division I school if you’re a pitcher they don’t really allow you to hit in most cases,” Mangia said. “Just the fact that I’m able to hit here is great.”
The Cardinals (32-10) were selected for the Division III NCAA Tournament and did so without any seniors on the roster. Mangia was a part of the 2011 Cardinals team that also qualified.
North Central will play in the Wisconsin-Whitewater Regional beginning Thursday, May 9.