Ashland Softball, New Coach New Philosophy
By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Last spring the Ashland softball team encountered a season many want to forget, as the Clockers went a dismal 1-17 and needless to say didn’t get the opportunity to advance into the State Tournament.
This year Ashland has turned the coaching duties over to Matt Matsen, who is taking a hard, strong look at the program and looking to make some chances so that the Clockers are relevant once again.
Over the last five years, Matsen has been coaching Vertex Softball, a girls travel team and when he was losing 4 or 5 girls to the next level he decided that he was going to sell the program and take a different approach to coaching.
“Travel softball takes about 10 months of the year and eventually takes a toll on you,” Matsen said. “I decided to start looking at the possibility of coaching high school softball instead. To my surprise there was so many schools looking for coaches, so I posted my resume on Indeed.”
It wasn’t long before someone with his experience was contacted to come in for an interview. Matsen, who is from Shrewsbury, eventually decided on Ashland. He was really impressed with the interviewing process, which not only included the Athletic Director Stephan Marks, but also had players, other coaches and parents sit in on the interview.
Matsen, who thought that his background would be a good fit for the Clockers, also liked the fact that there was an opportunity to build something at Ashland.
Coming in the new coach knew that the first thing that he needed to do was surround himself with some good coaches and then needed to get the word out to get enough girls to come to the tryouts.
He found that a lot of the junior varsity players were not coming out due to a bad experience last year. Not having enough athletes for two teams, Ashland joined forces with the Holliston JV team, forming a co-op for at least the year.
“I found that the coaches from the different teams didn’t talk to one another, so in order to begin building a program here I reached out to the middle school softball coach and the Ashland Recreational Softball League,” the first-year coach said. “I wanted to bring structure to the program while putting together a solid staff. Fortunate enough I was able to bring back Pam Curtis, who pitched for Ashland in the 80s, from last year’s coaching staff. I also added Haley Young (a high school softball player and college lacrosse player) as well as Manny Gomes, who has been with me for a while.”
Putting together a good coaching staff was really important to the new Clocker Coach and he specifically wanted to have at least one female on his staff, as they bring a different aspect to the game. Luckily for Matsen he was able to secure not only one, but two females on his staff.
In addition to bringing structure to the program as well as a solid coaching staff Matsen also wanted to change the philosophy, primarily attitude and effort two phases of the game that the players can do something about.
“I wanted to make sure that the players knew that it was ok to make mistakes as long as you were learning and improving from them. This has been a real change for the players,” he said. “I also wanted to bring fun back to the game. Nowadays there is a lot of pressure to play on the next level and the kids get stressed out. This is an opportunity to show what they can do while having fun. They are students first and athletes second.”
Upon meeting all the girls, the incoming coach found out that the previous coach had named five captains for this season. Although this is more than Matsen has ever had he honored the girls named and allowed them to remain captains. According to the Coach, the five girls have been a key source of understanding the new philosophy and keeping the team focused.
The five captains include three seniors Carlie and Cassie Marrella as well as Sophie Porter and two juniors in Paytyn McMullen and Maya Dickinson. The Marella twins are both good role models that bring a lot of skill to the game. Cassie plays a solid second base, while Carlie was a first basemen in the process of transferring to the outfield when she injured her knee. Being that she will be attending Brandeis to play basketball Matsen is being cautious with her getting back on the field.
Porter is the shortstop and is an outspoken individual and the first person who showed understanding and leadership. She is the team’s leadoff hitter, a skillful bunter and very fast on the base paths. Dickinson is the team’s catcher and has done an excellent job behind the plate and according to Matsen one of the best fundamental blockers that he’s seen.
Last year’s Clockers team had two pitchers, one was a senior who has since graduated and the other opted for track instead of returning to the diamond this spring. Thus, leaving the new coach with nothing in the circle – enter McMullen.
“Having no pitcher coming into the season we needed to find someone and noticed what Paytyn was doing in practice and approached her,” he said. “She is not a natural pitcher, she played different positions prior and with no varsity experience Pam has been able to work with her to get her up to speed.”
So far the junior hurler has been able to give Ashland a solid five innings a game before she begins to break down, but once she builds her endurance things should begin to fall into place. In addition to McMullen, Matsen also has a sophomore and two freshman who have pitching capabilities, but do not possess varsity level experience.
As Matsen gets this year’s squad to buy into his philosophy he likes what he has seen so far in the progression of his new team.
“I am really excited to see what the second half of the season brings,” the Coach said. “We have a good mix of seniors (4) with four freshman whom I’ve seen good things from so far; they all seem to be multi-talented athletes.”
In addition to what he has been working with this year, Matsen has noticed that there is a lot of talent that will be moving up from middle school next year and should help the future of the Ashland program move forward.
Making the drive into Ashland each day, the Coach passes the sign that says Softball State Champions and wonders how long it’ll be before he has the Clockers ready to make another run at a State Title.