TORRINGTON >> Torrington High School’s softball team romped through its entire season last year…until the Class L State Tournament — 23-0, NVL Championship, NVL Tournament championship, No. 1 seed with a Class L bye, then a 2-1 loss to No. 16 Bunnell in Round Two.
Worse yet, state runner-up Foran beat Bunnell 11-0 in the next round.
All but one Red Raider starter returns for another run this year. The first step is overcoming challenging teams in the NVL again, but how does Torrington get over the mountains it meets in the tournament.
“That game (the loss to Bunnell) was a huge disappointment,” said senior captain Sydney Matzko, who heads off to the University of North Carolina next year as a scholarship player. “It showed the flaws in our team. We scored just one run; no one was hitting. We didn’t move runners.”
“We struggled all year with hitting,” said junior captain Brittany Anderson, who, in fact, is one of the team’s better hitters. “We just can’t get too comfortable.”
“We graduated just one senior,” said junior Marissa Morris, the third Raider captain. “We have a lot of experience, but it still takes a lot of hard work.”
“You look at our undefeated record last year and say, ‘Oh,’ but people still have to put in the time,” said Matzko. “There’s a lot of higher competition in the lower part of the state.”
“Undefeated? You don’t know what’s ahead,” said Anderson.
“I don’t care if we go undefeated. That’s not our intent,” says Coach Maryann Musselman, with an even broader perspective. “We’ve been talking about what does ‘championship team’ mean?
“It has to be a belief system that’s built around the program.
“Excellence doesn’t just happen. It comes out of dedication and selflessness.
“Sometimes switches have to be made. When that happens, our people — all nine or all 15 —have to see that it’s not about individuals, and certainly not about ‘my individual stats.’ It’s about the good of the program.
“We have skilled players, but, if people don’t support each other, we will implode.”
It’s heady territory for Torrington softball. The team is traditionally good. Now it’s looking higher. When Musselman talks about building a culture, this time it’s big enough to include parents, not just as fans, but as part of the belief system.
Parents, too, must step up, supporting and helping to form a team mature enough to win state championships.
“Parents have to buy into it,” says Musselman. “If they’re causing their kids to be unhappy about a change for the good of the team, or for sacrificing her own stats, we won’t have a championship; we’ll just have a good team.”
After last year’s triumphs and disappointment, “good” is no longer good enough.