BRADEN RIVER — After one unofficial visit to North Carolina State University, Courtney Mirabella knew she wanted to play for the Wolfpack.
In front of her coaches, teammates, family and friends, the Braden River High softball ace honored her commitment to N.C. State — the school that first offered her a scholarship and stuck with its offer even after a head coaching change.
Mirabella, who also had recently looked at the University of Florida and the University of South Florida, signed a national letter of intent Nov. 16 to play softball for N.C. State.
“It’s a big relief because I don’t have to stress about where I’m going to go,” Mirabella says. “The girls are a big family. They’re really close and they help each other out. I also love ACC basketball.”
Mirabella spent the summer playing travel softball for Gold Coast Hurricanes, an All-Star team based out of Miami. Mirabella credits the experience as having been a valuable tool in preparing for the next level.
“You get to play girls who are all going to Division I teams,” Mirabella says. “It gives you a chance to see what it’s going to be like because the game’s a little quicker.”
Joining Mirabella in the signing process were fellow pitcher Hannah Loyer and utility player Ashley Allard.
“It’s monumental,” Braden River coach Erin Spivey says of having three players sign. “It’s a big thing for a sport and the athletic program as a whole. That’s huge. They are all good student/athletes.
“In eight years we’ve seen the progression of the program,” Spivey says. “What a good class of seniors. They’re excited.”
Loyer signed with Florida Southern College, her top choice, while Allard will be heading to Georgia Gwinnett College.
“It’s exciting, but I was really nervous,” Loyer says. “(Next year) you know everyone will be just as good as you are and (even) better, so you have to work a lot harder.”
Georgia Gwinnett College will begin its first year of softball this spring, which is something that initially sparked Allard’s interest.
“I really connected with the coaches and going in to a new program is really exciting,” Allard says. “I’m looking forward to being close to everyone and being a part of something new is really exciting.”
With their college intentions known, Mirabella, Loyer and Allard will now turn their attention to preparing for their senior season in the hopes of leading the Lady Pirates to a state title.
It’s a goal all three players share and one they all say is possible if they continue to stick together.
“We have to come together as a team,” Allard says. “We have a new coach, so we’re looking forward to that.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].