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Former player, current head coach Megan Smith Lyon returns to Chapel Hill

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UNC junior outfielder Alex Coleman (3) and graduate third-baseman Destiny Middleton (47) hit hands after Coleman catches a fly ball during the home matchup against UNC-Greensboro at Anderson Softball field on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Wednesday's game for the North Carolina softball team could be considered a homecoming of sorts — in more ways than one. 

Of course, it marked the first time the team played at Anderson Softball Stadium this season. But more importantly, Megan Smith Lyon, who played for the Tar Heels from 1996-99, made her return to Chapel Hill — this time as head coach. Junior outfielder Alex Coleman made her home debut for UNC, powered behind one hit and one RBI. The seasoned duo is in its first year at UNC after both came to the school from Marshall University. The 6-4 win against UNC Greensboro puts the team in the right direction for the rest of the season amid an influx of new faces and tough competition.

As far as Coleman can tell, Smith Lyon has not changed one bit since making the move from Marshall. In the fall, the team worked together to figure out what it means to be a Tar Heel and establish the team chemistry. The team is still working on building their foundation, with an entirely new coaching staff and 13 new players this season. 

Coleman said transferring schools is almost like being a first-year again. While she is new to UNC, the transfer brought Coleman back to familiar territory — she grew up in Asheboro.

“I had a crowd here tonight,” Coleman said, “And I didn't have that when I was playing midweeks at Marshall.”

Smith Lyon said she was excited Coleman trusted her enough to make the decision to transfer to UNC. In addition to Coleman, graduate catcher Autumn Owen transferred from Marshall and is a Mill Spring, N.C. native.

“It means a lot that they're here,” Smith Lyon said

Smith Lyon said having both Coleman and Owen playing for the Tar Heels is an asset. Not only are they leaders out on the field — Coleman currently stands atop the ACC in batting average — but they can also give the rest of the team some insight into Smith Lyon’s style of coaching. 

Redshirt junior pitcher Britton Rogers said Smith Lyon has already pointed UNC in the right direction going into the season. She said Smith Lyon told the team to stay focused on the right things and “just worry about the Tar Heels and that's it.”

If UNC’s play against UNCG is any indication, the strategy is proving worthwhile. Rogers tallied six strikeouts and gave up just two walks in six innings pitched, and North Carolina scored six runs on 11 hits. Despite a seventh inning surge from the Spartans, the Tar Heels finished strong, playing with unwavering confidence when it mattered most.

“Moving forward, we know who we are,” Rogers said. “We know we're fighters."

She said as the season continues, the team is focusing on fine-tuning the process more than the results of any individual game. Dialing in on areas that need to be cleaned up, like hitting with batters in scoring position, will be a central part of upcoming practices. 

Coleman said this win reminds her that nothing can be taken for granted. She said she plans on taking that mentality into this weekend’s six-game slate, with the advantage of being able to remain home in Chapel Hill. 

“We just have to play every single inning and every single out,” Coleman said. ”And [we] don't stop until the bell rings.”

@aplancaster_

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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