Georgia senior Alyssa DiCarlo walked out of a post-practice team meeting in January and was told that she had been named to the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year preseason watch list.
“Wait,” she said, with a discreet smile, “really?”
She might have been surprised, but anyone who had been following her UGA career was not. She helped lead Georgia to the Women’s College World Series her junior year with a batting average of .400 and a fielding percentage of .921 at shortstop.
Even less of a surprise — after DiCarlo broke Georgia’s all-time RBI and home run records this season — is that she now is one of 10 finalists for the Player of the Year award.
DiCarlo and the Bulldogs (40-17) play in an NCAA regional this weekend in Minneapolis, with an opening game on Friday against Drake.
DiCarlo, named first team all-Region and all-Southeastern Conference, ranks fifth in the country in slugging percentage (.910) and seventh in home runs (21). She was drafted fourth overall in the 2019 National Pro Fastpitch draft by the Chicago Bandits.
“She’s someone who has a played a lot of Southeastern Conference softball and has played in a lot of big games,” UGA assistant Tony Baldwin said. “That experience oozes out of her pores a little bit. Her learning how to harness and channel it as a leader has been really fun to witness.”
Last season, when Georgia was scheduled to play Florida during spring break, Baldwin told the whole team they needed to do some film work.
“Don’t worry about it coach, we’ve got it covered,” responded DiCarlo, who had already gotten the team together to meet and go over film.
“I haven’t seen her go into a game with a more competitive mindset than that series. It was great,” Baldwin said.
Georgia went on to win the series, including a mercy-rule win in the second game because the Bulldogs were up by 10 runs after five innings.
DiCarlo held a few players-only discussions over the offseason with the team, during which she shared her expectations. They also decided what they expected of themselves this season.
“I think setting the bar high also comes with people holding each other accountable, but somebody has to actually do it,” DiCarlo said.
DiCarlo moved to Arizona from Illinois as a toddler and began her career with T-ball at 5 years old, then softball at 7. Her club softball career started at 10, and that is where her ascent toward the dream of playing Division I began.
She was a state runner-up in both her junior and senior seasons at Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale, Arizona. She completed high school with an overall batting average of .542 accompanied by 204 RBIs and 39 home runs.
DiCarlo was recruited by Georgia and several other schools including Arizona State, Minnesota, Oregon and Stanford. She visited Georgia her sophomore year and fell in love.
“When I stepped on campus and met coach and the team, I knew this is where I needed to be. It felt like home,” DiCarlo said.
Jack Turner Stadium is what really sold her and made her feel like Georgia is where she should spend her collegiate career.
“It just makes you feel like you’re in your own little world, and that’s the biggest part to me that made me feel safe,” DiCarlo said.
Starting at third base her freshman year was a challenge, as she had been playing shortstop her last three years of high school. The reaction time, DiCarlo said, is often much quicker.
Last season, DiCarlo was able to move back to shortstop where both she and her coaches say she is more comfortable.
“Every day that she comes out, she’s working to find a way to get better at what she does,” UGA coach Lu Harris-Champer said.
Off the field, the team competes through a variety of ways, one of which is “Fortnite,” the popular video game. In offseason workouts, they play dodgeball.
“She’s probably the most competitive trying to knock people out,” junior second baseman Justice Milz said.
Though DiCarlo is very competitive, her father said that she never had a cross word with a teammate or coach in regards to winning or losing a game.
“Her competitiveness is internal,” Van DiCarlo said.
She helps the Bulldogs build camaraderie through extracurricular activities such as team dinners and movies.
“She’s always like ‘let’s get together and do something off the field’ to grow our chemistry and culture,” junior third baseman Jordan Doggett said.
DiCarlo said she believes that creating a tight knit group off the field helps them on it as well.
“It makes it a lot easier to play with each other and have that chemistry,” she said.
The Bulldogs have made it to the Women’s College World Series twice in the last three seasons. While DiCarlo keeps receiving honors and breaking records, “I don’t like to let things like that get to my head.”
Her focus is on the team and making it back to Oklahoma City.
“I want to keep just doing things for my team — scoring, hitting behind the runner, doing whatever I need to do to score more runs, to win,” she said.
Davis writes for the Grady Sports Bureau, which is part of the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.