Coach of the Year: Jones leads Lady Hoyas into title bid
by Carlton D. White
December 03, 2013 12:03 AM | 2380 views | 1 1 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Matt Jones
<BR>Staff photo by Jeff Stanton
Matt Jones
Staff photo by Jeff Stanton
KENNESAW — Harrison went 0-2 at the 2012 Class AAAAAA state finals under then-rookie coach Matt Jones. When assessing his team for 2013, Jones knew his players had certain elements that would allow them to challenge for a state title.

“I knew we could pitch and I knew we could play defense,” Jones said. “If you have good pitching and you can play good defense, then you’ll be able to compete and be in games.”

Harrison was in its fair share of games early on, opening the season with a 3-2 loss to Pope before winning 12 straight.

“I saw good things in us to be good,” Jones said. “But then we had some ups and downs.”

Harrison lost the games that mattered most, notably Region 4AAAAAA matchups against Kennesaw Mountain and Hillgrove that knocked the Lady Hoyas out of the running for the region title.

“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to get a chance to play for the region championship,” Jones said. “Not making it was disappointing, but the girls stayed focused, still made the playoffs and played for a state championship.”

For making all the right moves in helping Harrison to a runner-up finish in Class AAAAAA, Jones is the 2013 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Softball Coach of the Year.

“It’s quite an honor to be coach of the year, given the caliber of coaching we have in the county,” Jones said. “To be mentioned in the group with the other deserving winners in incredible.

“The success we’ve had as a team the last two years has been a blessing. There are a lot of people to thank for it because they’ve all been so supportive.”

Despite the region setbacks, Harrison (30-9) positioned itself to claim a No. 3 seed for the playoffs. After a first-round series win at Luella, the Lady Hoyas trailed East Coweta in the first game of their second-round series when everything clicked.

“It all came together,” Jones said. “We came back on East Coweta and scored to win that game, and it was like a springboard that gave us a lot of confidence.

“We won the second game to make it back to Columbus and played Lassiter and Hillgrove in the first two rounds of the elite eight.”

Harrison went 0-3 against those two teams during the regular season, but the Lady Hoyas’ familiarity with Lassiter and Hillgrove, and improved confidence in themselves, helped get the team further through the tournament.

“We played and lost to Lassiter and Hillgrove before,” Jones said, “so I think knowing what to expect from them helped us.”

Harrison had to beat Lassiter again in the losers’ bracket championship to reach the title series, where it beat Collins Hill to force a winner-take-all final game.

“We knew we could play with anybody,” Jones said. “We got a strong start against Collins Hill in the first game, but then they pulled away from us in the final.”

Jones was very proud of his team’s performance this season.

“The girls worked on their fundamentals and were determined not to go home,” he said. ‘The girls showed a ton of grit and determination, and it was good to see the senior leaders step up and guide the team.

“We peaked at the right time and knew we had a chance every time we stepped on the field.”
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December 10, 2013
Harrison is lucky to have Coach Jones. Let's hope he doesn't get snapped up by another.
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