Williams back in the game|Former Mattamuskeet star was 2004 WDN Female Athlete of the Year

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sports Editor

BELHAVEN — Melody Jo Williams enjoyed all kinds of success as a star athlete with the Mattamuskeet Lakers.
Williams, known as “M.J.” to her friends, was a standout softball, basketball and volleyball player. She was voted the 2004 WDN Female Athlete of the Year after a sensational senior season.
The affable, outgoing Williams is hoping her players on the Pungo softball team can enjoy some of that same kind of success. Williams is in her first season coaching the Raiders.
While the team is off to a 1-6 start, Williams is happy to see her team improving in several facets of the game.
“I’m definitely proud of them,” Williams said. “They had to be taught a lot and it’s good to see them learning. For them to still be here and not giving up, I’m definitely proud of them.”
Williams is glad that she’s had a strong foundation around her in her first year as coach.
“The parents have been wonderful,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for them to be any better. I’ve had a lot of great support.”
Though the team has been improving with hitting and defense, the first-year Pungo coach said the biggest improvement has been with attitude.
“Definitely their confidence level,” Williams said. “Players like Tess (Smithwick), Allison (Armstrong) and Jordan (Dunbar), their confidence level has come up a lot.
“Also, we’ve improved behind the plate. Allison is learning to drop and block the ball. And hitting is an obvious one. Most of the girls are getting on at least once a game.”
Smithwick, a senior pitcher/first baseman for the Raiders, appreciates the hard work Williams puts in as coach.
“She’s really meant a lot,” Smithwick said. “She works hard and has done so much for us. I don’t know how much I could thank her for it.”
Williams enjoyed her first win as a coach when the Raiders beat Community Christian, 15-4.
“That felt good,” Williams said. “We beat a good team. Just to see some of the girls come out of their shell and have a smile on the field, that felt good.
“It feels good to me when I see them do good.”
She’s hoping for more wins out of her team. Williams said the talent is there. The players just need the desire.
“They have to want it,” Williams said. “I can only teach them to the point where they listen to me. I’ve taught them what I’ve needed to teach them.
“I’m here to fix the little stuff. The big stuff they know. They just have to do it themselves and put it into play.”
The well-rounded Williams, who was voted prom queen and was named the winner of the Miss Engelhard Seafood Festival Pageant during her senior season at Mattamuskeet, made playing sports look easy.
She was tabbed the WDN Softball Hitter of the Year after hitting for a robust .554 average. Williams was named to the iHigh.com All-State Softball Team, and was also selected as Mattamuskeet’s Most Valuable Player and Best Offensive Player.
Williams also starred in basketball and volleyball with the Lakers. She earned all-state honors, was named to the WDN All-Area First team and tabbed Best Offensive Player for the Mattamuskeet basketball team. In volleyball, Williams was voted the Lakers’ Most Valuable Player and Best Defensive Player.
While Williams stood out in each sport, softball was her passion.
She went on to play softball at Louisburg College, where she was named the 2006 Student-Athlete of the Year,
After a successful two-year stint, Williams had more success at Lees-McRae College. Williams was named to the All-CVAC (Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference) team after hitting .318 while banging out 28 hits, scoring 21 runs and finishing with a .975 fielding percentage at first base. She also earned a National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America Scholar-Athlete Award for the 2006-2007 school year.
Though hitting seemed to come natural to Williams, who had a ritual of watching “For Love of The Game” each night during her senior season, she said it takes a lot of hard work.
“It definitely did not come naturally,” Williams said. “I can’t expect everybody to want it like I wanted it, to stay after (practice) and work. It really takes a lot of practice. You have to do it time and time again.
“It takes practice and it takes confidence. That’s the obvious one.”
After being a successful player, Williams realizes that it’s a whole new game when you’re on the other side of the fence.
“Coaching (is harder),” Williams said. “When I was playing, I was in control.”
Williams is confident that the Raiders will be a highly successful team soon.
“We’re going to get there,” Williams said. “We’ll be playing for a championship. I promise you — we are.”