Matanzas made program history in 2019. Can the Pirates do it again this season?
Twenty one wins, a season sweep of their crosstown rival, an appearance in the regional tournament and the first district championship in program history.
The 2019 season was a remarkable one for Matanzas High School’s softball team. 2019 was the team’s first being coached by Pirates head coach Sabrina Manhart, the former longtime softball coach at nearby Daytona State College.
There’s no lack of excitement entering the 2020 season, too, which begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, as the Pirates take on Taylor at Taylor High School.
However, Manhart said the team is looking for its next group of leaders. The Pirates had five seniors last season, three of whom were varsity starters, including then-team captain Alyssia Paiz.
“The energy that came from those seniors and their heart for this program was just something that bled through them,” Manhart said. “It’s like teaching a whole new crowd what this is all about. It’s exciting, for sure, but it’s definitely a different experience.”
She added: “We’re trying to grow our new leaders, and there’s been no lack of effort in that area. It’s been fun to see some of the girls come out of their shells a little bit.”
Alyssa Payne, Isabella Santiago and Lovie Haley have all stepped up.
In addition, the Pirates return sophomore Emma Wood in the circle, who gained valuable experience as the starting pitcher last season.
“I know that everybody has my back no matter what I do,” Wood said. “I know they’re going to be behind me to field everything.”
To match, or exceed, the success they saw last season, the Pirates — who will feature an entirely new outfield — know they need to keep pushing.
“We want to make sure we keep working hard and staying on top of everything,” Payne said. “We’re all helping each other and making sure we’re staying on top of things.”