Laura Matthews has been an ultra-successful softball coach at Division-III Wittenberg, finishing first or second in the North Coast Athletic Conference each of her five years, but she’s ready to challenge herself against the top college teams in the sport.
She officially became Wright State’s coach Sept. 26, and though program has gone through some turbulence the last two years, Matthews appears to have the credentials and passion to be a stabilizing influence.
“It was definitely a positive professional step for me,” she said. “Moving forward, I think my personality aligns very well with Division I. I also know Wright State is really invested in softball and making sure it’s a top-flight program in the Horizon League and in the region.”
The Raiders were 21-31 and 14-10 under interim coach Justine Wichman last spring and have had one winning season in the last seven years.
Wichman, who left to become an assistant at Ottawa University in Arizona, was thrust into the top job when Ray Loeser resigned unexpectedly before coaching a game. He had taken over for Lynn Curylo, who left the year before to become coach at her alma mater, UIC.
Matthews was a star catcher at Dayton from 2005-08 and never fared well against the Raiders, going 1-5 in that time.
“It was challenging playing Wright State when I was at UD,” she said. “They had a really great program then. I know what Wright State is capable of.”
Matthews had the program rolling at Wittenberg. She won nearly 70 percent of her games, going 128-57-1. The Tigers reached the 2016 NCAA tourney and won the 2017 NCAC regular-season crown.
She was named conference coach of the year last season.
“Wittenberg’s a great place,” Matthews said. “It was an easy sell for recruiting in a lot of ways. It’s a beautiful campus. It’s a great education. It’s got phenomenal people from the faculty to the staff to students. That had a lot to do with it. People want to be a part of it.
“You’ve got a lot of the same elements at Wright State. It’s got a wide array of academic opportunities. The facilities are top-notch. There’s a great administration, a great athletic department in general. You see some athletic programs that have been successful. I can’t wait to get in and pick the brains of some of those coaches.”
The Raiders will return their top three pitchers in Ally Russell, Ashley Sharp and Lauren Detrick along with star outfielder Honnah Susor, who hit .377 last season and was named first-team all-league and third-team All-Midwest Region.
“We’re pretty young. There’s quite a few freshmen on the roster, but there’s definitely talent there, and I can’t wait to get to work,” Matthews said.
Volleyball: After dropping their first three league matches, the Raiders notched a four-set win on the road against Cleveland State in their last outing.
Freshman outside hitter Abby Backus led the team with 18 kills. Wright State, 7-10, 1-3, hosts Green Bay at 6 p.m. Friday and UIC at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Men’s soccer: Coming off back-to-back double-overtime losses to Green Bay and Wisconsin, the Raiders rallied for a 3-1 home win over Detroit Mercy on Saturday.
A.J. Paterson leads the team in goals with six, while Alec Philippe has three goals and three assists. After playing at Belmont on Saturday, Wright State, 6-4-1, 3-1, hosts Bowling Green at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Men’s basketball: Wright State has come up with a creative ticket package this season, offering 10 ticket vouchers for $100. They’re good for any non-premium sideline seat and can be redeemed at the Nutter Center box office before or on game days.
For info, call 937-775-4934 or email RaiderTix@wright.edu.