Monday, September 21, 2020

Sports Person of the Week

Merola Makes Huge Improvements on the Ballfield


Jamie Merola capped off her four-year varsity career with Westbrook softball by winning the team’s Most Improved Player Award this year. Jamie also played field hockey for the Knights, earning All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention on two occasions.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Merola

Jamie Merola capped off her four-year varsity career with Westbrook softball by winning the team’s Most Improved Player Award this year. Jamie also played field hockey for the Knights, earning All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention on two occasions. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Merola )

Jamie Merola played tee-ball as a youngster, but decided to give it up after a while. However, by the time she got to middle school, Jamie realized that she missed playing the game and decided to try out for her middle school team. Jamie then went on a journey that saw her play softball for several squads, including at her hometown high school in Westbrook.

“I really missed playing, so in 8th grade, I tried out for our school team and I made it,” says Jamie. “I’ve been playing ever since and played year-round through high school.”

Jamie’s dedication to softball paid off. At Westbrook, Jamie made the varsity roster as a freshman and started at various positions all four years. She’s also played for a number of competition teams, including the Stealth, the CT Hurricanes, the Mirage, and, most recently, the Lady Knights.

When the high school season was finished, Jamie played for her competition teams throughout the summer and fall, then continued training in the winter, before starting the whole process again during the spring. Westbrook Head Coach Caitlin Eichler saw the results of Jamie’s efforts and feels that she was a key player on the team.

“Over the course of the past four seasons, Jamie has grown as an athlete and leader. She was a positive role model so, naturally, her teammates looked up to her,” Eichler says. “Jamie always put forth her best effort on and off the field. Jamie’s willingness to do what was best for the team was admirable. No matter where she played, she worked her hardest and did a sound job. Her positive outlook is what always stood out to me as her coach.”

At the postseason banquet, Jamie was presented with Westbrook’s Most Improved Player Award for her performance as a senior. Jamie led the Knights with a .372 batting average to go with 21 runs scored on the year.

“A highlight for me was winning Most Improved because, over the years, I’ve gained so much confidence in myself,” says Jamie, who won the Coach’s Award as a junior. “Freshman year, I wouldn’t even talk I was so shy. My teammates helped me come out of my shell, and I’ve changed for the better.”

In addition to being grateful to her teammates, Jamie also credits Coach Eichler and her parents for their encouragement throughout her career. Jamie spent a lot of time practicing with her dad Joe, while her mother Sandra would always record Jamie’s at-bats so she could watch them later. Jamie adds that Eichler helped her learn how to play multiple spots on the diamond.

“My dad always pushed me to do my best and dedicated himself to me so I could do better, and my mom was there watching every game,” Jamie says. “Coach Eichler helped me gain confidence in myself and got me used to new positions.”

When Jamie began high school, she earned the starting varsity nod in center field, where she played for her first two seasons. As a junior, Jamie shifted to left field. This year, Jamie was presented with a different challenge. With a lack of infielders on Westbrook’s roster, Coach Eichler moved Jamie over to third base—a position that she had never played before.

“I was scared at first, but I really focused on what I was doing and got so much better throughout the season,” says Jamie. “Coach Eichler thought I could do well there and she believed in me.”

Jamie also accomplished one of her goals by serving as a co-captain for the Knights this season. Jamie says that she had fun leading an up-and-coming Westbrook club in her captain’s role.

“If you’re not having fun, you can’t propel through the season. We pushed the underclassmen to work harder, so they could reach their full potential in the future,” says Jamie. “Being a captain was really important to me. It means motivating your players and being a great role model, so when it’s their time to be captain, they know how to act and treat their players.”

When Jamie was a sophomore, a few of her friends encouraged her to try out for the Westbrook field hockey squad. Jamie joined the team, learned the game as a sophomore, and then held down a starting slot for the next two years. Jamie earned All-Shoreline Honorable Mention in her junior and senior seasons. In 2017, she was named to the National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association’s All-Academic Team.

“It was scary, because I knew the team was competitive, but I still tried out, and both my coaches [Head Coach Janet Dickey and assistant coach Emily Alger] believed in me and pushed me to do my best,” Jamie says. “Our practices were built on small things and those built up and turned me into the player I was senior year.”

Academics have always been a priority for Jamie, who was inducted into the National Honor Society at Westbrook in her senior year. She was also involved in the Hiking and Archaeology Club, as well as the Interact Club. Jamie’s favorite subject is science, and she plans to study animal science at UConn with a goal of becoming a veterinarian.

“Graduating was bittersweet, because I had a great time at Westbrook High School, but I can’t wait to move on to UConn and see what the future holds,” says Jamie. “I’ll miss my teammates, and I’m so glad I was able to be with them for four years. At UConn, I hope to play on a club team, because I have so much fun with the ballgame that I never want to stop.”

Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .

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