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The Daily Tar Heel

Donna J. Papa wins 1,300th game in UNC softball's 7-3 triumph over Villanova

Sophomore middle infield player Skyler Brooks (24) prepares to bat during a UNC softball game against the University of Michigan on Tuesday, Mar. 1 2022. The Tar Heels lost 0-8.

The North Carolina softball team — led by head coach Donna J. Papa — won. 

Now say it 1,300 times. 

Or, actually, be like Papa and live it that many times. In Wednesday night’s 7-3 victory over Villanova, Papa won her 1300th game at UNC, a milestone that took 37 seasons while maintaining a win percentage well over .500. 

The feat is also a reminder that Papa should be forever remembered with the other successful coaches of UNC athletics. She has the longevity of Dean Smith and Anson Dorrance — and although the softball season allows for more chances at victory, Papa is still a top-10 winner ever in the sport. 

“It’s really a tribute to all the players that have played here and all my assistant coaches,” Papa said. “It’s never just, you know, ‘me.'”

The players play the game, ultimately, but the players’ success is a reflection of the coach’s leadership.

What Papa's team says about its coach is another indicator of her impact.

Junior outfielder Bri Stubbs said being a part of this milestone was an “honor" and described her time playing under Papa a “great privilege.”

Sophomore infielder Skyler Brooks said Papa’s legacy was palpable — something the players can feel while being in the program.

And after the events leading up to the win on Wednesday, it was fitting that Stubbs and Brooks got to share their appreciation for Papa — considering they were crucial for making win number 1,300 happen.

The Tar Heels went into the fifth inning with a comfortable 5-1 advantage with all of the momentum swinging in their direction after an explosive fourth inning that built the lead.

But, it was short-lived as Villanova flipped the script and stole the momentum back after a two-run homer brought them within two. Although the Wildcats did not score again after that, it began to feel as if UNC was letting the game slip away — until the sixth inning when Stubbs’ second RBI put the game back in their favor. 

“Once Villanova came back, we never even thought twice about what was happening and always knew that we had a chance here,” she said. 

As for Brooks, she also poured in two RBIs and made an impact on the defensive end, including an athletic catch at second base — one of many hustle plays the Tar Heels defense made in the win.

Brooks said her defensive mindset that night was “just (to go) after anything.”

“Bri has been really steady, really consistent for us as a lead off and then we put Sky up there with her and the two of them have done a really nice job offensively,” Papa said. “And then Sky’s play — I mean, that was outstanding. She is so talented.”

After this win, the Tar Heels will look to expand Papa’s legacy even more throughout the season by picking up some consecutive victories and get the season back in the right direction.

UNC came into Wednesday’s game after its two worst losses of the season to top-20 opponents, and the team has not won consecutive games since the first four matchups of the season.

With a stretch of home games coming next, the outlook on getting Papa to 1,301 and beyond is a positive one — as the Tar Heels look to capitalize off the home-field advantage and build consistency in the win column.


@dthsports |

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