ARCHIVE: UConn Softball - Where are they now?
STORRS, Conn. – At the beginning of rampant success for the University of Connecticut softball team in the early 1990s stood Janna Blais – a Husky record-holder and future pioneer of college athletics.
The “UConn Softball: Where Are They Now?” series continues with a very special UConn alum who personifies the hard-working mentality, on and off the field, that each student-athlete desires to have.
Blais, formerly known as Janna Venice, is one of UConn’s all-time greatest softball players. A graduate of the class of 1993, she helped the Huskies win four straight Big East Championships under head coach Karen Mullins.
It was a period of dominance for UConn softball – an era that produced the program’s first (and only) win in the College World Series. In Blais’ senior year, the Huskies won a program-record 45 games.
In 1992 and 1993, Blais was named Big East Conference Player of the Year. She was also a two-time Big East Championship Most Outstanding Player in 1991 and 1993.
To this day, Blais holds five major program records for the Huskies, including base hits (258), at-bats (716), total bases (366), runs scored (169), and stolen bases (72). She also holds single-season records in batting average (.464), base hits (84), runs scored (63) and total bases (132).
Blais had arguably her best all-around season in 1993, hitting .352 with 68 hits and 21 stolen bases. A pitcher as well as an outfielder, she went 10-3 in the circle with a 1.42 ERA and a 68-to-26 strikeout to walk ratio. That season, UConn had a total staff ERA of 0.79.
Currently the Deputy Director of Athletics/Senior Woman Administrator at Northwestern University, Blais has continued to serve collegiate athletics diligently.
In 2013, she received the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA) Administrator of the Year Award for Division I FBS. Within the Big Ten, she serves on the Joint Group Executive Committee and Administrators Council.
Prior to Northwestern, she served 10-plus years at Bowling Green State University in an administrative role. During that tenure, she had a four-year term on the NCAA Division I Softball Committee.
In 1995-96, she was an assistant coach for the UConn softball team, helping Mullins to coordinate the team’s recruiting efforts.
To catch up with Janna, read her responses below:
Where do you live now?
I live in Glenview, Illinois just north of Chicago.
What was your major at UConn?
I have two degrees from UConn. As an undergraduate student, I majored in Sports Medicine/Athletic Training. As a graduate student I majored in Sport Management.
Where do you work and what do you do there?
I work at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. I am the Deputy Director of Athletics/Senior Woman Administrator. I oversee several units within our department (NCAA compliance, Academic Services, Sports Medicine, Sport Medicine, Student-Athlete Leadership programming etc…) as well as the men’s and women’s soccer, women’s lacrosse, and women’s basketball programs.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment since graduating from UConn?
My greatest accomplishment is without a doubt my beautiful family! My husband, Michael, (also a UConn graduate and student-athlete who played baseball with current UConn head baseball coach Jim Penders) and I have two sons who are 14 and 10 years old.
What is your favorite UConn softball memory?
This one is easy! My favorite UConn softball memory is sweeping UNLV in a double header at the NCAA Regionals hosted by Hofstra University to send our team to the Women’s College World Series for the first time in school history. It was an amazing day and took an entire team effort with amazing pitching from our ace Pat Conlan as well as great defense from our entire team. I will never forget it!