Good vibes have been contagious lately with North Carolina's softball team.
The team capped off an important weekend in the program's history, gathering Saturday at the site of its new state--of-the-art softball complex for a groundbreaking ceremony.
The event came a day after the Tar Heels completed their fall exhibition schedule by sweeping Louisburg College 3-0 and 9-3 on Friday at Finley Field.
The doubleheader domination was a spectacle for both the present and future talent of the program.
The usual suspects - shortstop Michelle Semmes, pitcher Radara McHugh and catcher Natalie Anter - all did their things on the mound and at the plate.
But the true story of the afternoon was the seven newcomers on the squad, nearly all of whom saw action.
"I think the fall was fine for us," UNC coach Donna Papa said. "I think we have a lot of depth this year. We have added seven freshmen and have gotten more speed from the freshman class in Natashalyn Snipes, Dionne Street and Lauren Looper."
Six starters among position players return for the Tar Heels, along with pitchers McHugh and Michael Parrott. Two positions - center field and second base - are up for grabs after second baseman Crystal Henderson and center fielder Jen Klesaris' college eligibility ended.
Sophomore Lauren Parker and Snipes started the first game of the double header at the vacated positions, but Papa said the final spots will be decided in the spring and will be based mainly on hitting.
Aided by the flexibility that fall scrimmages allow, 15 players saw action in the first game of the twinbill.
"We just have a lot more depth at every position," Papa said. "I feel good about the options we have right now."
Saturday marked a milestone in the program's history, as the Tar Heels celebrated the beginning of construction to their new softball complex. The project is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2002.
The complex will give softball the boost to women's athletics at North Carolina that Henry Stadium gave to the women's lacrosse and field hockey squads.
Papa and the players alike can only fathom how this project will enhance the credibility of an already successful program.
The Tar Heels finished the 2000 season at 47-17 and 6-2 in the ACC and broke multiple single-season records, including hits, runs, RBI, doubles and total bases.
"I think it will bring in a lot more recruits," said Parrott, who compiled a 14-4 record last season. "It will be an honor to be the first team to play in the new stadium."
The Tar Heels, with a new stadium on the horizon and plenty of depth and talent returning, have the opportunity to shine for years to come.
Said Papa, "If we can put the chemistry we had last year and build on that with the talent we have this year, it is endless where we could wind up."
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