Replacing a legendary coach is not an easy task. Following two is even tougher, but first-year Taunton coach Carrie Consalvi is up for the challenge.
In November 2019, Consalvi was tabbed to replace Dave Lewry who retired after 20 years, four state titles, and a 407-86 record with the Tigers. Lewry had followed Jack Tripp, after whom the softball field at Taunton is named, and who was 312-57 record in a 16-year run highlighted by one state championship and 14 Old Colony League titles.
“I hope that I can live up to both coaches and spend another decade there where Taunton will continue to be on top and compete and be successful,” Consalvi said. “I would like to uphold that for both gentlemen and that is my plan.”
When Taunton athletic director Mark Ottavianelli was reviewing candidates, he felt a bit of pressure to get the hire right. And Consalvi’s pedigree and experience stuck out. A member of the Bridgewater State University Athletic Hall of Fame, Consalvi (nee Kuprcz) helped the Bears to three straight MASCAC softball titles from 1998 to 2000.
“She played at a high level in college and it’s nice to have the opportunity to have someone that played the game and is able to relate to the kids,” Ottavianelli said.
Consalvi inherited an experienced team with three Division 1-bound and two Division 3-bound seniors on the roster — pitcher Kelsey White (Villanova), catcher McKenzie McAloon (Bryant), shortstop Hanna Aldrich (Lehigh), along with Tayah DaCosta and Skyler Rheaume to Framingham State. Because of her college experience, Consalvi can relate to them.
“She gives us some tips on what’s to be expected at the college level like how to act, the attitude, the level of play, being competitive, earning your spot is a big one,” White said. “Your spot is always up for grabs and you never have it set in stone, there’s always some player on your team that’s trying to beat you for that position.”
Jordan Wade, a former Tigers standout, has been a refreshing addition to the coaching staff.
“With the all-female coaching staff, it provides really good female role models for us,” McAloon said. “[They] were both collegiate athletes [Wade played at Southern New Hampshire], which is really nice to have so we can talk to them about that.”
When the Taunton players learned of Lewry’s retirement — in particular and seniors who were a part of the 2018 Division 1 state championship team — they were deeply saddened. The program seemed to be at a crossroads.
A five-way FaceTime call between McAloon, White, Aldrich, DaCosta, and Rheaume — the core of players that became captains — was key in keeping the program stable.
“We said we had to roll with whoever was going to come in and no matter who it was we were going to have to play our game because we didn’t want whoever the new coach was to change the Taunton High program,” McAloon said. “Coach [Consalvi] ended up coming in and she’s been fantastic.”
At 11-0, the top-ranked Tigers are enjoying success partly because Consalvi didn’t make dramatic changes. Yes, her personality is different from Lewry’s. The practice routine has changed. But the pregame warmup has remained the same, putting the upperclassmen at ease.
“It’s probably a little bit of give and take on both of our ends,” Consalvi said. “There’s some things that I will do differently in the future but it was definitely a delicate ecosystem and it would only make things worse to go in there and blow everything up.”
Lewry worked for Tripp for six years as the freshman coach before taking the varsity position. But he had a similar mind-set in his first season (2000).
“I did things a little bit differently than Jack so it took the team a little while to adjust to my style,” Lewry said. “But it’s funny, I always say it was my third year when I finally felt it was my program and not coincidentally that was our first state championship.”
Consalvi has earned the respect of her players through her relentless work ethic. A nurse practitioner, she works a 24-hour shift on Saturdays, as well as a night shift during the week.
“She’s extremely dedicated,” McAloon said. “One of the days she came right from working a 24-hour [shift] and she was still in scrubs and came to practice and you couldn’t tell she hadn’t slept. She was still pumped up and fired up.”
Earlier this season, Norton coach Wade Lizotte explained his team was not looking to take advantage of the unique circumstances surrounding the 2021 spring season by opting into tournament play if his team didn’t qualify outright.
“I’ve told the girls, we aren’t here to waste anyone’s time. If we aren’t competitive or don’t qualify for the tournament on our own, then we aren’t going to opt-in just to opt-in,” Lizotte said.
The fifth-ranked Lancers (10-1) locked up their tournament spot with a 9-1 Tri-Valley League win against Norwood.
For other teams on the bubble of the tournament picture, the opt-in option provides an interesting opportunity to reward spring athletes who were not able to compete last spring.
“We’ve opted in, and it’s because we have a whole new team since we last played,” said Triton coach Alan Noyes, whose squad stood at 5-5 after rallying for a win Monday.
“My staff and I said that if we were competitive at all then we would opt in for the opportunity to have more games, more experience and more practices. I’m not in favor of doing this every year going forward, but this season allows for us to get more experience and games.”
▪ No. 11 Natick outscored Bay State Conference foes Weymouth, Brookline and Framingham, 35-4, last week.
“It’s simple and it’s number one, we have really good hitters,” Natick coach Tom Lamb said. “They scare me in the batting cage when I’m throwing batting practice because they can pop the ball. We kept our roster small because of COVID concerns and because there’s only 13 girls on the roster, everyone has gotten a ton of practice.
His Redhawks have outscored foes 103-35 in 11 games. But the pitching and defense have been key too.
“Our team’s defense has really improved the last few weeks, but it’s how hard the girls have worked,” he said. “And our pitching has been very strong throughout the rotation.”
▪ Plymouth South’s Amelia Freitas, a 2019 Globe All-Scholastic, made her return to the circle against Patriot League foe Hanover after missing the first nine games of the season because of injury, striking out 14 and throwing a complete game gem. “It was great to see her back on the mound. She threw well in that game,” Plymouth South coach Stephanie Finn said. During Freitas’s absence the No. 10 Panthers went 8-1. Freitas, a University of Albany commit, will team up with freshman Elli Cicchetti as the postseason nears.
Games to watch
Thursday, Plymouth North at No. 10 Plymouth South, 4 p.m. — The second round of the Patriot Cup features the Fisher Division-leading Eagles hosting the Keenan Division-leading Panthers.
Friday, No. 6 St. Mary’s at No. 17 Cardinal Spellman, 3:30 p.m. — The upstart Cardinals will be shooting for second place in the Catholic Central Large as the visiting Spartans try to fend them off.
Monday, No. 7 King Philip at No. 1 Taunton, 3:45 p.m. — After running through the rest of the Hockomock, the two powers finally meet in a two-game series to end their regular seasons.
Monday, Saugus at No. 8 Peabody, 4:30 p.m. — The Sachems are looking to send a message to the Northeastern Conference when they visit the North Division-leading Tanners.
Tuesday, No. 6 St. Mary’s at No. 2 Bishop Feehan, 5 p.m. — The Spartans will hit the road trying to avenge their 8-1 defeat to the Shamrocks on May 22.
Correspondent Colin Bannen contributed to this story.