SCC’s Monica, RA’s Roussel notch state Coach of the Year honors
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 27, 2008
By RYAN ARENA
One has only just begun his head coaching career in softball. The other just completed his final year of head coaching duty. And their teams are fierce hometown rivals.
But there is one thing that binds St. Charles’ Ty Monica and Riverside’s Mickey Roussel in 2008 – each has captured honors as Louisiana’s Coach of the Year for this past season
The Louisiana Sports Writers’ Association recognized Monica as Class 3A’s top coach, while naming Roussel as the best in Class 2A.
Monica has taken Coach of the Year honors now in each of his first two seasons as SCC softball coach. Last season, he did so after leading St. Charles deep into the postseason, only to fall in the Class 2A state semifinal.
This season, after moving up to Class 3A, he and the Lady Comets topped that finish in a huge way, taking home the state championship from Sulphur after defeating Parkview Baptist in the state championship game, 2-1.
St. Charles set a school record with 30 wins, all the more impressive considering its highly competitive schedule. It earned SCC the top seed in the 3A playoffs.
“It’s definitely an honor,” said Monica. “There are a lot of good coaches around, guys that do a lot better job than I do.
“I really can’t take the credit. I’ve been really blessed to have a team of real good girls and real good people. They do the hard work. I get to reap the benefits of that.”
Roussel, meanwhile, is no stranger to Coach of the Year hardware, having won the honor three times as coach of the Rebels’ football team.
But it is the first time he’s received the honor as the Lady Rebels’ softball coach, after a season in which the Rebels advanced all the way to the Class 2A state semifinals. It comes in what will officially go down as his last season as head coach, although he will remain on as assistant to Kristy Hebert – someone he says had as much to do with the team’s success as he did this season.
“It’s an honor to receive it. But our staff, Kristy, our players, all had a big hand in this,” said Roussel.
“(Hebert) and I were basically co-head coaches, and it worked out well. There were no egos involved. We both had the same goal, to win. She really deserves this as much as I do.”
The Lady Rebels’ run to the semifinal was dramatic, and it ended in the same fashion. The quarterfinals and the regional round each ended the same way for the Rebels: with Roussel’s daughter, Kelsi, knocking in a game winning, walk off RBI.
But the script was flipped in the semifinal, where Doyle’s Ashton Bennett’s 11th inning walk-off home run to centerfield dashed Riverside’s title hopes. The deciding hit came on a full count, with two out.
It was a bitter end to a memorable season.
“We were a strike away from playing in the state championship,” Roussel said. “That’s pretty tough, but pretty special in the same way.”
For that matter, Monica’s Comets weren’t short on drama in their trip to Sulphur. Parkview Baptist led 1-0 when St. Charles rallied to tie the game in the sixth inning.
In the seventh, one of the most memorable events in the school’s history happened when Courtney Western’s grounder to short led to Jessie Braud’s game-winning score from third base, and the Lady Comets’ first state title since 1997.
It takes an impressive encore to repeat as a Coach of the Year, and Monica was up to the task.
Early in the season, he felt that his team wasn’t playing at the level it needed to to succeed, though.
“We were playing bad softball,” Monica said.
But even so, he had an inkling early on that this season could have been special.
“Even while it seemed like we were doing nothing right, we weren’t getting blown out,” he said. “Even our losses were 5-4, or 4-2. And these were against teams like Mount Carmel, East Ascension, Vandebilt, teams that would go on to play for a state title.
“It just makes you think, ‘what can we do if we put it all together?’ And I don’t know that we ever did play that perfect game. But we did enough to win a state championship.”
Ironically, it was while leaving St. Charles after the school’s tournament early in the season that Roussel first thought his Rebels could make a big run.
“We were able to beat Avoyelles, then Assumption, and then St. Charles in the tournament final,” Roussel said. “And I knew how good (St. Charles) was. As we left there, I thought this could be something special.”
It was indeed a special year for each team. And the coaches that helped make it possible now each have a little extra hardware, to remind them of the 2008 season that was.