Mattanawcook Academy softball coach Dean Libbey with his granddaughter, first baseman Jillian Libbey, seen when Jillian was a toddler and again in the 2022 season. Credit: Courtesy of Libbey family

Longtime Mattanawcook Academy softball and field hockey coach Dean Libbey has experience coaching family members.

He coached his daughter, Aimee, in both sports, and they shared the 2000 state Class C softball championship for Lincoln school.

Now he’s coaching his granddaughter, Jillian Libbey, who is a sophomore and the starting first baseman.

“I’m harder on her than the other girls,” admitted Dean Libbey, who has coached softball for more than 40 years, and also coaches his granddaughter on the field hockey team. “She takes it pretty well. She doesn’t say anything back. She’s a good girl.”

The Libbeys are sharing a fun season, with Mattanawcook back among the contenders after two rare losing seasons. The Lynx are sporting an 11-1 record and sitting second in the Heal points standings in Class C North behind Bucksport.

The team has outscored their opponents 125-28 and have scored at least 10 runs in eight games.

Prior to the 2019 season, when the Lynx went 7-10, they hadn’t had a losing season since 2006, when they finished 4-12.

Jillian Libbey said she understands that her grandfather has to be tougher on her than her teammates, and she has compared notes with her aunt, Aimee.

“Sometimes it’s a bit much, but I love playing for him. It’s fun. It definitely makes me a better player,” Jillian Libbey said. “He wants me to be better.”

Jillian does notice her teammates chuckling when he yells at her.

“They think it’s pretty funny. I just tune it out. I don’t let it bother me. I may not like hearing it, but he is just trying to make me better, and it does make me better,” said the daughter of Luke Libbey and Jana Gifford.

Mattanawcook lost just one senior off last year’s 6-7 team and four of the starters were freshmen, including Jillian Libbey. They all received valuable playing time.

Dean Libbey said his sophomores play more like seasoned veterans.

“We have a bunch of girls who have played a lot of softball and it is paying big dividends for us now,” Coach Libbey said.

“A lot of us have played together since we were 6 or 8 years old,” Jillian Libbey said.

Pitching is the key to a successful softball team, and Dean Libbey has two quality starters he can rely on in junior Jennie Whitten and sophomore Natalie Tash.

“They both throw pretty hard and they both have a bunch of other pitches,” said the coach.

“Jennie has pitched more, but we will split them over the last four games, so they’ll both be ready for the playoffs,” said the 68-year-old Dean Libbey.

Sophomore Ava Sutherland is the starting catcher, Jillian Libbey is at first, Tash and Whitten play second when the other one pitches, sophomore Lauren House is the shortstop, and seniors Rylee Bubar and Ereka LaDuke share third base and right field.

Senior Bryn Weatherbee is the center fielder, and another senior, Olivia Veillette, patrols left field.

Juniors McKenziery Lane and Aderyn Stratton are both outfielders, and freshmen Lily Wotton and Sophie Blomsma can play multiple positions. Both can play the outfield, with Wotton also being able to play first and Blomsma being able to catch.

The team struggled to score runs a year ago, but that hasn’t been the case this season.

“Every player in our lineup, one through nine, can put their bat on the ball pretty well,” Coach Libbey said.

Whitten, House and Sutherland are among the home run threats while LaDuke, Bubar and Veillette are the best contact hitters.

Tash is also a good hitter and hits second in the lineup behind the speedy LaDuke.

House, Whitten, Sutherland and Bubar hit in the middle of the lineup with Jillian Libbey, Veillette and Weatherbee supplying some punch at the bottom of the order.

Between 2008-18, the Lynx racked up a regular season record of 144-33.

They lost to Bucksport in the Class C North final three years in a row between 2015-17 and are hoping to get another shot at a title this year.