Chanhassen coach Joe Coenen told Marybeth Olson after her eighth-grade season that he wanted her to be the face of the Storm softball program. "We knew then that she was going to be something special.” The senior has fulfilled expectations, leading the defending Class 4A champion back to the state tournament. Photo by Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune
After Marybeth Olson’s eighth-grade season, Chanhassen coach Joe Coenen took his player aside and informed her of his expectations.
“I said she is where I wanted to take the program,” Coenen said. “I said ‘I want you to be the face of Chanhassen softball.’ We knew then that she was going to be something special.”
Four years later, Olson, a senior pitcher/shortstop, is leading the No. 1-ranked Storm back to the Class 4A state tournament in search of their second consecutive state title. And Olson, the team leader in all things softball, is the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year. (View the Star Tribune's all-metro teams.)
Let’s get the bona fides out of the way first: A University of Connecticut-signee, she went into the season as part of a planned three-pitcher rotation. She has emerged as the ace, compiling a 12-0 record with an 0.58 ERA and 130 strikeouts in just 72⅓ innings of pitching. When not on the rubber, she’s a lockdown defensive shortstop, inhaling ground balls. At the plate, she’s hitting a cool .547 with six home runs and 23 RBI, the catalyst for a Storm offense that has outscored opponents 194-12.
Those were the type of numbers Coenen could foresee four years ago.
“You can pick out talent from far away,” said teammate Kali O’Keefe, a senior infielder who heard a similar pitch from the coach four years ago. “I’m sure he and a bunch other people saw what was coming.”
Talent is only a part of the equation, however. Every team in the upcoming state tournament has that special player or two. What sets Olson apart is, frankly, her short memory. She’s always looking forward, thinking a step or two ahead. What happened is gone. What’s important is what comes next.
“She doesn’t let little things get to her,” O’Keefe said. “If she throws a ball, she’ll say ‘I’ll just throw a strike on the next pitch.’ She wipes it all away. She’s got the bigger picture in mind.”
Olson is hazy on Coenen’s prognostication, but recalls the message
“Um, I kind of remember it, vaguely,” she said. “I just know that the most important thing all four years was having fun and good chemistry.”
That’s the intangible that sets her apart. When the Storm needs something — a big hit, an encouraging word, a distraction to ease the pressure — it’s Olson who steps forward.
When the preseason pitching plan hit a snag, it was Olson who stepped in and carried the pitching load.
“We had three pitchers who were each going to get six, seven games, but we hit some bumps in the road. Marybeth knew she was going to have to carry us in the section tournament,” Coenen said. “I can honestly tell you that I’ve never had a leader like her. She’s just amazing. She’s the reason we are who we are right now.”
“I’ve always been like that,” Olson said. “I’m not sure where it comes from. My parents, I guess. I owe them a lot.”
While she’s helping to keep the rest of the team loose, Olson admitted to feeling the weight of trying to help the team repeat. True to her nature, she gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that she has a great team around her. Why worry?
“I’ve been feeling the pressure more this year. But my teammates, they give me so much confidence,” she said. “It’s crazy how much fun we have together. I’ve never been on a team like this. That makes it 10 times better.”
2015: Sydney Smith, Maple Grove
2014: Smith, jr.
2013: Hannah Heacox, Stillwater
2012: Cayli Sadler, Maple Grove
2011: Hayley Nybo, Hopkins
2010: Sara Moulton, Eagan
2009: Moulton, jr.
2008: Sam Hildebrandt, Park of Cottage Grove
2007: Brynne Dordel, Chaska
2006: Kristin Danielson, Mounds View
2005: Briana Hassett, Eastview
2004: Chrissy Sward, North St. Paul
2003: Allison Bakke, Anoka, jr.
2002: Kristen Schmidt, Park of Cottage Grove
2001: Missy Beseres, Armstrong
2000: Lyn Peyer, Minnetonka, jr.
1999: Angie Recknor, Hopkins
1998: Recknor, jr.
1997: Lacey Hughes, Wayzata
1996: Karissa Hoehn, Stillwater
1995: Erika Kanavati, Henry Sibley
1994: Laura Peters, Park of Cottage Grove
1993: Tracy Carey, Richfield
1992: Laura LeVander, Woodbury
1991: Jeanette Strubb, St. Bernard’s
1990: Karyn Valentino, St. Bernard’s
1989: Sue Varland, North St. Paul
1988: Michelle DeBace, St. Bernard’s