The way Madison Monson sees it, there’s only one way to sum up the next chapter in her college softball journey, and that’s by calling it a clean slate.
“That’s literally the best way to describe this,” Monson said. “I’m super excited. Some of my friends have made fun of me. They’re like, ‘oh, you get to go to three different universities in four years. That wasn’t the original plan, but yeah, how exciting to say that now.”
A former Walker High standout, Monson played last season at Southeastern Louisiana but signed with Southern Arkansas on July 18 after getting her release from SLU at the end of this past season.
Monson said she’s been in contact with some of her new teammates, but she hasn’t met them in person.
“Going to Southern Arkansas, I know absolutely no one,” Monson said. “I have no clue. I know nothing about my teammates.”
“This is so crazy to think about, but it’s so refreshing realizing that it’s literally a clean slate with all of these girls that I’m going to be meeting, and it will be the first time with me being on a team where I know no one. It’s all new. It’s all fresh.”
Monson started her college career at LSU Eunice, hitting .385 with 18 doubles, three triples and a team-high 19 home runs to earn National Junior College Athletic Association All-Region 23 honors and NJCAA Division II All-Region honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association as a freshman.
As a sophomore, she helped the Lady Bengals capture the NJCAA Division II national title on her way to being an All-Region 23 selection, finishing with a team-high 14 home runs with a .300 batting average with a team-leading 58 RBIs to go with 49 runs, 51 hits, eight doubles and four triples.
Monson finished with 33 home runs in her LSUE career for second behind Rebecca Skains (43).
That type of individual success didn’t materialize for Monson at Southeastern, however, as she played in five games in her only season in Hammond, going 0-for-3 with a pair of walks.
“It’s hard. It’s very hard, but I’ve learned that I need to try to make the best out of every situation that I came upon, and I think it helped me grow as a person,” Monson said.
“Maybe a quarter of the way through the season, I was just like, ‘this isn’t what I want for myself,’” Monson continued. “I swore and I promised myself and my parents that I would finish out the season and make a move from there because I was like, ‘you never know. Right now, I’m unhappy and uncomfortable, but we still have a whole other half of the season to go through and things change, but as of right now … I’ll finish out, but this not something that I want to commit another year to.’”
On top of adjusting to a new school and a new system, the college softball season was cut short in March because of the novel coronavirus. Southeastern finished the season 15-8 and 2-1 in Southland Conference play.
“I was definitely stunned,” Monson said. “It’s so crazy to think about. It literally took my breath away because we’re living through a pandemic. You don’t ever expect your season to be taken away from you. Really, when you think about (those) kinds of things, you’re thinking about injuries or just something of that nature. You never expect a virus to … have some much effect and control over something that you live, eat, sleep and breathe for.
“In a way it was definitely a blessing in disguise for me, for my case.”
Southeastern closed out its season with a 4-3 loss to Appalachian State on March 11, and Monson said she asked for her release from SLU during team exit meetings later in the week and went into the NCAA’s transfer portal.
At that point, Monson admitted she had thoughts her softball career may have come to an end, but the realization that it wasn’t over hit her while she was on the treadmill during a workout.
“I was really discouraged,” Monson said. “My confidence was really low with ball, to be completely honest and straightforward. It just wasn’t there, and I was like ‘I guess this is maybe my sign that’s it’s time’, but my heart was just like ‘no, you can’t. This is not the time. This wasn’t supposed to be the way you hang your cleats up.’”
“I love this sport too much and I love everything that comes with it to just end on the note that I could have ended on.”
Monson began talking with coaches, eventually getting in touch with Southern Arkansas coach Jason Anderson.
“From the moment I started talking to him, I just was like, ‘I think I know what I’m going to do,’” Monson said. “Making the decision and committing to play at Southern Arkansas has been such a blessing.”
“He is such an approachable man,” Monson said. “I feel so comfortable talking to him, and I feel like I could genuinely go to him as a one-on-one person outside of a coach and athlete kind of manner. He seems like an absolutely great guy, great husband, great dad.”
Monson said Anderson stayed in contact with her, texting at least once a week.
“It definitely makes a difference in the conversation and what you can talk about, or feel comfortable talking about,” Monson said. “Feeling uncomfortable in a conversation, I feel like, gets you nowhere, because … you’re not going to completely and truly talk about what you need to and what you feel. I just feel so comfortable. He’s made me feel like he’s really invested in me.”
“I really feel like he truly cares, and it’s an awesome feeling,” Monson said.
Monson visited the Magnolia, Ark., campus and was also impressed with the facilities at the Division II school, which feature turf and dirt fields, covered batting cages and a weight room.
“Athletics is well taken care of, and from what I’ve heard and seen, the softball program is supported by the entire university and the community,” Monson said. “It seems that everyone around is invested in the Muleriders.”
Additionally, Monson said she’ll be living in and on-campus apartment with softball teammates, which she said gave her flashbacks to her LSU-Eunice days. Monson also noted she’ll have two years of eligibility remaining at Southern Arkansas.
“It’s going to be very nice and refreshing to be surrounded by the girls and we all have the same kind of mindset and demeanor, and we all want to achieve the same goals,” Monson said. “That’s something that was lacking for me at Southeastern.”
For Monson, it’s about continuing her softball journey in new surroundings.
“Everything happens for a reason, and it will only make me grow to be a better person and to be a better teammate, and that’s definitely something that I’ll carry with me to Southern Arkansas,” Monson said.
“I’m really looking forward to this chapter in my life because I get to venture out again,” Monson continued, noting the five-hour drive to Arkansas. “I’m jumping states. I’m going to be in Arkansas, and that’s super exciting because I’ll get to learn about that area over there and create so many new relationships and friendships that hopefully I’ll be able to carry with me forever like I have in the past.”
“I’m looking forward to having complete clean slates with everyone that I’ll meet over there.”