Rowland named High School Sports Report Softball Coach of the Year

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Maria Rowland has eight State Championship titles under her belt as the head softball coach at Laurence Manning Academy.

But she doesn't think about the past when she's working on the current season. In fact, she said shortly before the Lady Swampcats won their second state title in two years in mid-May that she prefers to look forward when facing down opponents.

"Last year, we were only 18-10 going into those state finals," she said. "And we played our absolute best in those final games to get that title. We couldn't think about the rest of the season. It was down to those games. Nothing else before that, other than practice, was going to help us."

This year, it was more of the same. Rowland said she and her players focused on good fundamentals and a positive outlook.

"You just have to put in the work," she said. "It's great to have the experience from winning the title last year, but you still have to prepare for this year. You can't just rely on the experience of having won."

Rowland's work with her players has been recognized by the High School Sports Report, who named her as its pick for the South Carolina Independent School Association Softball Coach of the Year.

"I'm definitely honored and blessed," said Rowland of the recognition. "I'm very appreciative. But that honor could not have come without my girls. Any and all of my success is because of their hard work and dedication, their love of the game, and their willingness and will to want to win."

During her two decades at LMA, Rowland has coached cross country, volleyball and basketball, along with her duties on the softball field.

In softball, she's led the team to eight state titles - most recently in 2017, 2016, 2011, 2009 and 2007. She's led teams to at least five State Championship finals where the Lady Swampcats came in as runners-up.

She's also won numerous Lower State titles on the way to the state finals, along with district and conference championships.

But in the end, she's not thinking about any of that going into the 2018 season, where the Lady Swampcats return all but five players and have a strong chance of winning a third State Title in three years.

"That's going to be a new year, a new season and a different time," Rowland said after the back-to-back win May 17. "We return a lot of our team, but we will have new girls. They will have to all come together again and make it work. And they have to put in the time and effort, mentally and physically, to pull it off."

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