Reaching the state tournament is a goal for any team, but especially for Niwot softball head coach Bobby Matthews and his Cougars. Coming up just one game short of making state last year will only fuel the fire in 2019. With a solid core of returning starters, their goal could soon become reality.
With a small graduating class from last season, the Cougars will return all but two starters. This year’s returners will also have the experience and knowledge of how to compete for a postseason spot.
“It was tough, but I think that where we were the year before, we didn’t have a good season,” said Matthews. “The year before (2017) we won six games so to win ten more and get to that point kind of returned us back to our traditional being in the postseason was huge. It was hard but I think it helped these girls have a taste and some hunger because they weren’t happy about the way it ended.”
Matthews believes that reaching the postseason is a “viable goal and something we should do,” lofty words for the ninth-year head coach. His confidence is rooted in a slew of talent that he hopes will lead the Cougars.
Center fielder Nikki Sims and third baseman/catcher Reagan Wills are poised to impress during their senior campaigns. The duo accumulated 87 hits last year, and both hit over .400. Complimenting them will be junior pitcher Aliyah McComas, and her younger sister and shortstop, Ayva McComas. Ayva impressed in her freshman year, batting .585 and being named a CHSAA All-State Honorable Mention. Her older sister Aliyah, won 15 games in the circle while striking out 103.
Rounding out the solid lineup are returning fourth-year starters Calista Law and Esme O’Rourke, as well as Jasmine Aldama, Haley Bassett, and Ashton Jones, who are back for their second seasons. The Cougars are certainly not short on talent that hopes to translate into success.
As in years past, this Niwot team will rely on offense to win games. And who doesn’t enjoy watching the ball fly? The thrilling nature of softball has united this team according to Matthews.
“It’s softball, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s fast paced,” said Matthews. “...I think these girls have grown as players and I have noticed a very tight-knit camaraderie from the team from the very beginning.”
Alongside Matthews will be seventh-year assistant Jason Johnson and head junior varsity coach and former Niwot Cougar, Mackenzie Thorne. Both aspire to provide some much needed support for Matthews.
At the end of the day, it’s seeing his players develop that will always put a smile on Matthews’ face.
“Honestly for me, I get more enjoyment out of that than during my playing career,” said Matthews. “I get more out of seeing a kid work their butt off and develop and become the player that the coaching staff saw as a freshman with their potential and live up to it. That’s why I do it.”
You can catch the Cougars in action for their first game on August 21 at home against crosstown rival Silver Creek.