For her entire life, Sophia Carroll has had one person beside her. That person was twin sister Aris, who was even by Sophia’s side when she stepped on the softball field. Sophia at shortstop and Aris at third base as they moved through high school, travel ball, and on to Arizona softball. That is, until this year.
Aris left the team during the offseason. It has opened new worlds for both of them, even if it was difficult to leave that old world behind.
“I missed her at the beginning,” Sophia said. “I think it’s really cool to see her branch out and explore different aspects of life. It kind of inspires me. Once my career ends, what that would look like, because I think a lot of athletes don’t think about that until the day comes. It’s kind of nice to see what’s coming in the future.”
It’s not always bad to branch out and find your own way, either. Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe sees some positive changes on the field and even with how Sophia deals with her teammates since Aris stopped playing.
“I think she plays more free,” Lowe said. “I think she has gotten a lot closer with the other girls. And twins, they’re always together. They’re attached at the hip. But I think she’s starting to become kind of her own person away from Aris, which is funny because they’re so very different, but alike in a lot of ways, too.”
Playing more freely is important for Sophia, who is in her first year as the starting shortstop for the Wildcats. Last season, she was learning behind fifth-year senior Jessie Harper. They’re different kinds of players, but Sophia credits Harper with showing her the importance of the intangibles like “composure, poise, trusting the process, taking it day by day.”
“Jessie...wasn’t as talented defensively but with her work ethic and the way she just approached practice, she got so much better,” Lowe said. “And I think Soph comes in with really great hands and now you take that and stick it with the work ethic and I think you’re in good shape.”
Harper was much better known for her bat than her glove. That’s a difference between the two, but Sophia is coming into her own offensively. Lowe thinks she might have even been helped by being out with a concussion for almost a month.
Carroll was hit during practice and didn’t play between the Texas State game on March 5 and the first game of the Washington series on April 1.
“I think the best thing that happened was she got some perspective from the bench,” Lowe said. “And I think when she stepped in on Friday and just hit the single up the middle, it was like, ‘Alright! What’s hard about this? Let’s go!’”
It wasn’t easy for Sophia to take that time off, though. Patience was the biggest hurdle for her, especially since this was her first concussion and she had no experience with the recovery process.
“I felt out of it and the symptoms slowly went away,” Sophia said. “And no one likes to be injured. Kind of rush to get out there. I was excited and they had to slow me down, take me through each step, make sure we did it the right way so I could come back healthy.”
She went 3-for-10 and knocked in two runs during the Washington series. Her batting average now sits at .261, which is the highest it has been since it climbed to .273 just before her injury.