The North Carolina softball team heads into the 2022 season with new and familiar faces as the team hopes to make a run in the NCAA Division I Softball Tournament.
In 2019, the team reached the regional round, losing to Tennessee. As the new season approaches, longtime head coach Donna J. Papa and her players have shown renewed optimism for the future of the Tar Heels.
“I really look forward to actually being there,” first-year Shelby Sykora said. “I’ve always grown up watching college softball on TV and going to a couple of games, and just being in the atmosphere of the team, whether I’m playing or not, will just be amazing.”
The 2022 roster has eight first-years, the most the team has had since the 2018 season, when it had seven. Although they have yet to experience game action, they hope to reinvigorate the North Carolina softball program with their talent.
This season’s roster also has five seniors. Senior first baseman Kiersten Licea, who played in 38 games last season, praised the versatility of the roster.
“I think we have great depth overall,” Licea said. “I feel like I’m very excited to see what everyone has in store for them, especially if after one person gets hurt, we have so much depth in the lineup that we don’t have to worry about injury and be like 'oh, she’s down.'”
Licea’s confidence shows that the team is prepared to face any adversity that comes its way. Papa echoed that sentiment, displaying confidence in her players in that category.
“We’ve worked on failure recovery,” Papa said. “I really just feel like, for our team, you can’t really get too high or too low about anything.”
The Tar Heels are going to have to be able to handle adversity if they hope to go up against some of the best teams in the country and come out with wins. The team will be playing against the likes of the Georgia Bulldogs, the Michigan Wolverines and the Oregon Ducks, all of which were ranked in the 2021 season.