The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

January 30, 2014

Back in the game

Former Edgewood coach Shelley Monas resurfaces as assistant at Lakeland

After Jeff Morganti took over as the coach of the Lakeland Community College softball team, he made a call to an old friend to ask her to assist him. He didn’t get Sharon Monas on the phone that day, but he did find his assistant in the form of her sister, Shelley Monas.

Morganti, who coached at North, and the Monas sisters have known each other for quite a long time.

“I knew him from when he was at North,” Shelley Monas said. “Sharon has known him much longer than I have because she had coached Ohio high school softball for a while.

“When I was at Edgewood, we scrimmaged and played each other. We work well together. It was strange, he was calling for Sharon, but he called my number. We hung up so I could get her number out to give to him and I called him back. We started to talk about me possibly helping him.”

And so, the former Edgewood coach is returning to the dugout as an assistant on Morganti’s staff in Kirtland.

“It is exciting,” Monas said. “(The women) play at this level because they have a passion for the game. We want to find those kids who match our passion. That’s why they play at our level – because they love the game.”

Monas had taken a bit of a break from coaching softball and wound up as the coach of the Erie Illusion, a team in the Independent Women’s Football League.

“I only took two years off,” she said. “I wanted to see where the game was going. There were some things I didn’t like about it, to tell you the truth. This gives me a chance to make sure the game is going to be played the right way.

“I have some strong feelings about certain things and this allows me to make a difference while I’m helping Jeff. The passion is coming back.”

While leading the Warriors, Monas compiled a 154-26 (.854) record over 7 seasons between 2003 and 2009. She led the Warriors to the OHSAA Division II state semifinals in 2006. During her tenure, Edgewood claimed 7 consecutive Northeastern Conference championships. Monas was a 6-time Star Beacon Ashtabula County Coach of the Year selection. Her teams won 7 sectional championships and made 6 appearances in the district finals.

College softball is not knew to Monas. Her resume includes coaching stops at NCAA Division II member Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., and NCAA Division III member Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa.

At Mercyhurst, Monas’ teams claimed 4 straight Keystone Conference championships between 1979 and 1983. She led the team to the only undefeated season in school history. In 1985, she was named head varsity softball coach at Northwestern High School in Albion, Pa. In her 5 years at Northwestern, Monas led the program to the quarterfinals of the state tournament and the first undefeated season in Erie County League history. She earned Erie County League Coach of the Year honors that same season.

She returned to the collegiate dugout in 1990 to lead Allegheny College. In short time, Monas re-established Allegheny as a national contender and guided the Gators to an NCAA Regional Championship in 1993 on the way to National and Regional Coach of the Year honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). While at Allegheny, she also served as a member of the NCAA Division III All-American selection committee.

After a stint as athletic director the Seton School in Meadville, Monas returned to coaching at Meadville High School, where she led the varsity program to the quarterfinals of the state tournament, 6 straight Crawford County Conference championships, and a District X championship from 1997-2002.

Having coached both the college and the high school game, Monas doesn’t believe there is much difference from one to the other.

“The strength of the kids and the speed of the game is a little different,” Monas said. “The passion of the kids is different because all the kids want to be there. Other than that, there’s not a whole lot different. You still have to get 3 outs in an inning and 21 outs in a game.”

Monas and Morganti will recruit close to home.

“Obviously, we want to recruit local kids. We’ll go after the best players and see what happens,” Monas said.

Monas believes Lakeland has some strong selling points, not just on the diamond but in the classroom, as well.

“The obvious advantage is quite a bit of money saved out of pocket,” she said. “They can come in and make a difference and play softball. Some kids don’t want to go away from home for school. They can stay local and get a good foundation for softball as well as their academics.”

Being a 2-year institution shouldn’t scare away prospects.

“With the 2-plus-2, they get some great savings,” Monas said. “For those who want to go on and play at a 4-year school, Jeff and I will be looking for places for those players to go (when they are ready to transfer or have completed their 2 years at the school). We’ll help them go on to a 4-year school.”

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.

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