After the addition of volunteer assistant coach Annie Aldrete, a former catcher for the University of California, Berkeley, the North Carolina softball team is looking forward to the insight she'll bring to its 2021 season.
Aldrete’s hire was announced on Oct. 1. This season will be her first time at an NCAA Division I school as a coach, after she previously worked as an assistant coach for two years at California State University, Monterey Bay. Aldrete was also the head softball instructor at Aldrete Baseball and Softball School in Salinas, California.
But this is far from Aldrete’s first experience with a DI team. She graduated in 2017 from Berkeley as a catcher for the Golden Bears, after playing softball for two years at the University of Tennessee. She made four NCAA tournament appearances in her time as a player and was a co-winner of the inaugural NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year trophy in 2014.
Head coach Donna J. Papa, players and Aldrete herself agreed that her young age and short time in between roles as a player and coach give the team a unique advantage.
“It’s nice to have a coach that is in their twenties,” Papa said. “She can relate to them in a way, keeping some things real — she brings great energy.”
Papa believes that Aldrete’s perspectives and coaching style align well with the team philosophies.
“Everybody has goals — those are always your championships and getting to another level — but the process is the important part of how you build your program.” Papa said. “She has brought so much perspective already, and I know she is going to make a difference with these players.”
Senior catcher Zoë Goodman elaborated on the fresh perspective Aldrete brings to the coaching staff.
“Softball is a changing sport,” Goodman said. “It’s really cool to have somebody who understands firsthand how this age of softball feels to play.”
Goodman said her time getting to know Aldrete has been a time of personal bonding as well.
“I feel like I can connect with her more, not just on a player's level, but a personal level as well,” Goodman said. “That really helps with bonds of listening, and hopefully following in her footsteps."
Aldrete’s accolades and experience as a catcher have also brought insight to the position at UNC, including Goodman. In her time at Tennessee, Aldrete started nearly every game as either a catcher or designated player.
“I was a catcher, but I never had a catching coach,” Aldrete said. “I never had someone to come challenge me and make me better. So I’m really excited to see what I can do with this group of catchers.”
Aldrete is also excited about implementing coaching insights she learned while at CSU Monterey Bay in her new position with the Tar Heels. Both Papa and Aldrete expressed their excitement for the opportunity to work together in an unusual offseason.
“I am so excited to learn all I can from all three coaches on staff,” Aldrete said. “I couldn’t be more ready to learn from their perspectives after being in the game for as long as they have.”
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