Shannon Myles was not happy. Not one bit.
The MacArthur senior shortstop learned last fall that the Generals — the reigning Long Island Class AA softball champs — were being moved to Class A this season because of a small decline in enrollment. The change sent shockwaves throughout Nassau, Suffolk (and even state) Class AA and A softball communities.
“I’ve played against these girls [in Class AA] since eighth grade, and all of the sudden, I’m not anymore,” said Myles, entering her fifth season on varsity. “We’ve went against teams like Massapequa and East Meadow for four years, and now we’re not playing them in conference. I know we’ll see them in non-league, but it’s different. It won’t be the same.”
MacArthur is not alone. Mepham and Great Neck South also moved to Class A, leaving only 17 “AA” schools in Nassau this season.
“It doesn’t matter. There’s great competition on both levels [Class AA and A],” said MacArthur’s Bobby Fehrenbach, entering his 17th season as head coach. “The size of the school isn’t always a sign of the talent of the teams.
“There’s a thought that with more kids in AA, the A’s are a step behind. But there’s great competition in the A’s, too.”
When asked about his new conference (Nassau ABC-I), Fehrenbach rattled off every team from memory (pretty good, coach) as being a challenge for his Generals. One thing is certain: MacArthur won’t overlook any opponent.
“It’s competitive every time you go out and face someone,” Fehrenbach said. “Every day is a new contest and a new challenge.”
The challenge seems to have shifted to the other “A” clubs like Clarke and Carey, who are perennial Nassau “A” powers.
“It’s just more fun, seriously,” said Carey coach Anthony Turco about the addition of MacArthur. “I always tell my kids to be the best, you have to play and beat the best.”
MacArthur certainly seems as if it could be the best Nassau A team this year. True, the Generals graduated three starters from last season’s state semifinalist team. But they return a solid core led by Myles, junior pitcher Jess Budrewicz, and her twin sister (and catcher) Ashley, who form one of the top batteries on Long Island.
“Expectations are definitely high,” said Ashley, who had 19 RBIs and 22 runs scored in ’16. “We’re going to go out and play every game like it’s our last.”
Jess Budrewicz went 21-5 last season with a 2.12 ERA, a whopping 267 strikeouts and 39 walks. How does she feel about the move to Class A?
“I’m excited because they [Class A opponents] haven’t seen me pitch yet,” said Budrewicz, a speed pitcher, who tops out at 63 miles per hour. “People will probably say that we are the team to beat, but we’ll certainly face challenges from other teams.”
Perhaps, no one is more involved, or understands this entire situation better, than Rachel Barry. The 26-year-old coaches at Clarke, but teaches at East Meadow. Oh, by the way, she played under Fehrenbach and graduated from MacArthur in 2008.
“This touches home for me because of my connection to the program,” said Barry, who has guided Clarke to back-to-back Nassau and Long Island Class A crowns the last two seasons. “People from East Meadow have told me about MacArthur, ‘We rather you have to play them’. But that’s no problem.”
Interestingly, MacArthur and Clarke — which graduated two-time Newsday Player of the year Sarah Cornell (Hofstra) — scrimmaged each other on a daily basis for more than a week last year in preparation of the state tournament.
“We liked supporting each other,” Barry said. “We made them better, and they made us better.”
But even Barry had to admit things have changed: “It’s a little more of a rivalry now.”