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The Daily Tar Heel

The North Carolina softball team needed a fresh start.

After losing three straight games and starting its season off 2-6, things weren’t going exactly as well as they had hoped.

But as the Tar Heels proved this weekend, a poor start to a season is nothing that a little trip across the country can’t fix. In fact, a change of scenery proved to be exactly what UNC needed.

The Tar Heels participated in the Bank of Hawaii Invitational in Honolulu this past weekend with three other teams from across the country, including San Jose State, St. Mary’s and Hawaii. The team finished the weekend 4-1, going undefeated before falling to San Jose State 5-4 in the championship game Sunday afternoon.

“Overall I think this weekend was really good for us,” coach Donna Papa said. “Coming into this weekend, we were struggling to put it all together. When our pitching would show up, or hitting wouldn’t, or we would have great hitting and great pitching but our defense would kill us … but we led this tournament in pretty much all aspects. Our pitching was great, our bats came alive, our defense was stellar. We were able to kind of climb out of a hole this weekend.”

UNC scored 25 runs in five games while only giving up eight. Sophomore Aquilla Mateen led the UNC offense, batting .684 on the weekend and tallying 13 hits in only 19 at-bats.

“I think the key for me this weekend was patience at the plate,” Mateen said. “Coach has talked a lot about being patient and seeing the ball and that’s really what I tried to do this weekend, just stay patient and stay calm and make good decisions at the plate.”

Papa said she believes the adjustments her team made at the plate were key to its weekend success.

“The girls did a good job showing more discipline and patience at the plate,” Papa said. “Aquilla was just a beast this weekend; she kind of set the table for us. I think a lot of the girls saw her success and started to maybe follow her lead a little bit and it showed.”

The Tar Heel defense also contributed strongly to the team’s success, as the team did not commit any errors until the championship game.

“Our defense was really great this weekend,” junior Amber Parrish said. “We made some really great plays to get us out of some jams and that just kept building our confidence.

“It was disappointing that the only errors we made were in the championship game, but I think as a team we’re getting better.”

Papa said that although she is disappointed in the tournament’s ending, she thinks it served as a turning point for her team’s confidence.

“I’m really disappointed in today’s game, you know, we made two back-to-back errors that let them have runners on and then we walked a batter and then the grand slam happened, and it cost us the game,” Papa said. “But we put ourselves in a position to win, and I’m proud of the team in that respect. We came together as a team, it’s just disappointing to blow it in the last two innings because you didn’t finish.

“There are a lot of things we can look back on and build from (from this weekend). We don’t have the record we were expecting, however, I feel like we did climb out of a hole this weekend and it’s pushing our momentum in the right direction for ACC play.”

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