CASTINE, Maine — Maine Maritime Academy Director of Athletics Steve Peed said it’s difficult to discontinue a varsity athletic program. There is a sadness that accompanies that decision and relaying the news to the student-athletes and coaches.
However, he felt it was best for the institution to discontinue the softball program, which began in 1999, after next spring and replace it with women’s varsity lacrosse.
Peed conferred with several Maine Maritime Academy administrators and made his recommendation to them.
The school already has a men’s varsity lacrosse team but doesn’t have a baseball team.
The fact the Mariners don’t have a softball field was a major factor in the decision, Peed said.
They play on Ritchie Field’s artificial-turf surface, which is used by the football team, the men’s and women’s soccer teams, and the men’s lacrosse team.
Peed explained that there is a grass field near Ritchie Field but building a softball field on it with a fence would have negatively impacted other programs.
“Our soccer teams use it when the football team is using Ritchie Field, and our football team uses it when the soccer teams are on Ritchie,” said Peed.
He also pointed out that using Ritchie Field for softball created a hardship for North Atlantic Conference teams..
He noted that when the softball and lacrosse teams had home games on the same day, they would have to start at 10 a.m. The softball team usually played doubleheaders.
“So teams like Johnson State or Castleton State [of Vermont] would travel seven hours and the lacrosse game wouldn’t start until 3, 4 or 5 p.m. [depending upon the length of the softball games],” said Peed. “Playing at 10 a.m. in March isn’t a fun time to play softball.
“We were cramming a lot of [softball] games into a short period of time in foul weather without their own field,” said Peed. “And not having a field hurt recruiting.”
He also noted that “where the pitcher drags her foot was making a depression in the field. So we had to move the pitcher’s circle around. The infield was starting to sink, and that was decreasing the lifespan of the field.
“We were putting 200 athletes at a disadvantage for the sake of 15 athletes,” Peed said.
He acknowledged that they will still offer softball as a club sport, and women’s lacrosse will have a club team next spring before attaining varsity status for the 2014-15 season.
“We don’t have a lot to do to ready the [Ritchie] field for women’s lacrosse,” said Peed.
The decision to drop softball and add women’s lacrosse is part of a restructuring which followed a comprehensive review of the athletic department conducted since Peed’s tenure began in 2012.
“The changes reflect a department-wide goal to offer the best student-athlete experience possible in each athletic program the academy offers,” Peed said in a press release. “Our focus is modernizing, while delivering quality services and acting with fiduciary responsibility.”
The 2013-14 Mariners softball players were notified in person at the start of the semester, so the team could plan in advance for their final season.
Coach Tricia Carver-Watson, newly appointed as the women’s volleyball and softball coach, intends to honor the women who have played for Maine Maritime Academy along with their coaches throughout the season.
They also plan to finish strong.
“Our players deserve that. We will make use of every resource we have for a successful year and to work toward closure,” said Carver-Watson, who will continue on as head volleyball coach in 2014-15 and will pick up responsibilities as the department’s compliance and senior woman administrator.
“Tricia is a quality person. Everybody knows who she is. And it’s great to have her help us through this,” said Peed. “We want to honor and cherish the accomplishments of our softball teams, coaches and players and what they did for the academy.”
MMA will conduct a search for a head women’s lacrosse coach this fall. The new coach will be on board in January, providing ample opportunity to recruit additional athletes to complement the existing players already on campus.
There has been an overhaul of the cardio fitness and weight rooms, including a new floor and new equipment.
“The project is near completion,” said Peed. “We raised over $110,000 to pay our share of it.”
The recent hiring of Seth Brown as the women’s soccer coach enables Travers Evans to focus on just the men’s program. He had been coaching both teams.
“That is a tremendous addition for us. We used to have the untenable situation of having a coach who came off a game in which he was elated or down in the dumps and then having to flip a switch in his head and coach another team [right away]. It wasn’t working,” said Peed.
Brown will also be the coordinator of student-athlete affairs while Evans will oversee the facilities.
Ryan Paquette has been named the strength and conditioning coach, and the women’s locker rooms will be renovated this fall.