Combining success and leadership on the softball field, the classroom, and in their school community, the Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School softball team captured several local and regional titles this season, leading both the team and the school into uncharted championship waters.
This season, the team took the Cape Ann League championship, the large school State Vocational Championship, and the District Three championship and came within an extra inning of winning the state championship.
Last year, the team was a District Three finalist, the furthest they had ever been, said head coach Michael O’Brian.
“As each year goes on, we step up our goals,” said Jackie Orangio, a senior who played centerfield.
With so much achievement last year, the team got really close to each other, Orangio said. When the freshmen started this season, most of them were younger siblings or played on other teams with the older players, so it was easy to bring them in.
“We knew we’d be good, but we didn’t know we’d be 22 and 2 good,” O’Brian said.
The team had good new players and saw themselves getting better and better throughout the season, O’Brian said, adding that they had set high goals after capturing the district championship, a state vocational finalist spot and taking the second spot in the colonial league in the 2011 season.
Off the field, the team also had a successful year. Many of the players held positions as the officers of their class. Orangio led the school as president with outfielder Laurie de Mars as treasurer and left-fielder Megan McMahon as secretary. Infielder Tara Walsh was class valedictorian.
“The coaches help us out a lot,” Orangio said, adding that the teachers at Assabet really care about all the students. The older students help younger students learn how to balance academics and other commitments by organizing study sessions and encouraging each other.
One of O’Brian’s proudest moments as head coach was watching all five of his senior players enroll in colleges. “It’s a real big deal to me,” he said. "We really stress the student first and the athlete second.”
Three of the seniors have been with O’Brian for four years, allowing him to watch them grow from young girls into “well-balanced women,” he said. "They have had to deal with me for four years," he said, "and now they come to the coaches for advice off the field."
As a walk-on at Becker College, Orangio said she knows that they will be there for her next year if she needs advice about balancing her academics and athletics.
They ask questions a lot, even though they have graduated, O’Brian said, adding that “the Aztec family doesn’t end." Coaches can give advice on all kinds of questions about interviews, classes, social situations and especially about college, he said.
McMahon advised younger players to “take the most out of it because it does go by fast,” she said. “Make sure to enjoy every moment.”