Since wrapping up her playing career with the Arizona Wildcats, former NFCA All-American Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza has been the volunteer assistant coach on Melyssa Lombardi’s Oregon staff. The expansion of softball coaching staffs this season means that the former centerfielder no longer has to find a separate way to support herself. The Ducks announced on Friday that she has been promoted to full-time paid assistant coach.
“Alyssa has worked tirelessly as an integral member of our staff,” Lombardi said in the school’s press release. “She brings so much to our program as an elite player and an elite coach who really relates with our team.”
Palomino-Cardoza spent six years as a Wildcat under former head coach Mike Candrea. Her first season was lost to an ACL tear, but she stormed back as a redshirt freshman in the 2017 season. She made the Pac-12 All-Freshman team that season as well as All-Region first team and All-Pac-12 second team. She was one of 25 finalists for the NFCA/Schutt Sports DI Freshman of the Year after finishing third in the Pac-12 with 16 home runs and fifth with 54 RBI.
It wasn’t all roses, though. Palomino-Cardoza suffered her second ACL tear in as many years. This time, it happened right before the start of the 2017 postseason.
She not only bounced back but took another jump as a sophomore, landing on the NFCA All-American first team. She led the Pac-12 in both home runs (19) and slugging percentage (.750). She held down first base instead of center field after her second ACL surgery.
In her redshirt junior season, things kept humming along. Palomino-Cardoza was a first-team NFCA All-American once again, this time after moving back to center field. It was the first time since Brittany Lastrapes did it in 2010 and 2011 that a Wildcat was a back-to-back first-team All-American. The 2019 season also saw Arizona return to Oklahoma City for the first time since 2010.
Like the rest of the world, 2020 was a difficult year for Palomino-Cardoza. The pandemic caused the season to be shut down only 25 games in. Palomino-Cardoza had a strong start, but her fifth year in Tucson came to an abrupt end.
Fortunately for Palomino-Cardoza and six of her teammates, the NCAA allowed them to return for one more season. It was her sixth in cardinal and navy. She started all 53 games she played in a performance that landed her on the All-Pac-12 second team, the Pac-12 All-Defensive team, and NFCA All-West Region first team. Her career ended in Oklahoma City as the Wildcats made their second straight appearance in the Women’s College World Series.
With her playing career over, Palomino-Cardoza headed to Eugene to join Lombardi’s staff as the volunteer assistant coach. When the NCAA approved a rule change that allowed many sports to get rid of the volunteer role in favor of another paid assistant coach, different schools took different paths. In the case of Arizona, which didn’t have a volunteer last season, the head coach went outside the program to another major conference. Some high major teams have been looking at the staffs of mid-major teams for the addition. Oregon had the person they wanted already in town.
“Alyssa is a huge part of what we are doing with our culture,” Lombardi said in the release. “We are thrilled that we were able to retain her and keep her in the Oregon family.”
In her two years as the volunteer assistant, the Ducks have gone 71-36 overall and 24-24 in conference play. They have advanced to the postseason both years, making the super regionals in 2023 for the first time since 2018.