Donna J. Papa Softball Camps
Mary Jo Firnbach
Associate Head Coach
Mary Jo Firnbach joined the UNC softball program as associate head coach in 2014.
Firnbach comes to UNC after spending eight seasons as the associate head coach at Texas A&M. During her tenure in College Station, the Aggies made eight NCAA tournament appearances, including two trips to the Women's College World Series and four NCAA Super Regional appearances. In 2008, Texas A&M advanced to the 2008 national championship game.
Before Texas A&M, Firnbach served as head coach of the Syracuse University softball team for seven seasons, where she led the Orange to a school record for victories (36) and its third appearance in the Big East championship, earning Coaching Staff of the Year honors in 2005. She has also held assistant coaching positions at Illinois State and the University of Michigan.
"I am excited to welcome Mary Jo to our Carolina Softball family," said Papa. "MJ has a wealth of experience in many areas of the game. She has been to the women's College World Series three times as an assistant with two outstanding programs in Texas A&M and Michigan. She also started the program and was the head coach at Syracuse for seven years.
"MJ's knowledge of the game and her ability to teach will help strengthen our program and help us continue to build a championship culture and mentality within our program. She will assist with many aspects of our offense and defense with the primary focus on developing our hitters and infielders.
"I believe she is a great fit for our program. MJ appreciates the culture of pride, passion, and excellence that we have embraced within our program and will be able to relate that to our players. I am looking forward to having her on our staff here at North Carolina."
Firnbach graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in community health relations and later returned for her masters in sports psychology. She is a member of the Southern Illinois University Athletics Hall of Fame.
While at Southern Illinois, Firnbach was named team captain in 1991, a season in which the Salukis went 42-7 and were the Gateway Conference regular season and tournament champions. She was a two-time Gateway All-Conference first-team selection and an All-Midwest second-team selection.
On the professional level, Firnbach played the 1991 season for the Raybestos Brakettes in Stratford, Conn. The Brakettes won the national championship and the gold medal at the Olympic Sports Festival. She also played with the Michigan Cruise in Ann Arbor, Mich., finishing fifth at the national tournament in 1994.
Firnbach entered the coaching profession immediately following graduation, serving as a volunteer assistant coach for two seasons at her alma mater, while completing her master's degree. She served as an assistant coach at Michigan from 1993-95 where she helped lead the Wolverines to a Big Ten Conference regular season and tournament championships, the National Invitational Tournament title and to an appearance in the College World Series.
Firnbach then served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Illinois State for three years. The Redbirds won the Missouri Valley Conference title in 1996 and 1997 before Firnbach was named the head coach of the Orange in 1998.
Head coach Donna J. Papa announced on Sept. 3, 2013, that Marissa Young, a three-time All-America pitcher at the University of Michigan, was named an assistant coach for the Carolina softball team.
Young, who was named the 2002 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and 2003 Big Ten Player of the Year, will primarily coach pitchers and catchers for the Tar Heels.
“I’m excited to welcome Marissa Young to the Carolina softball staff,” Papa said. “She is a great fit for our program. Marissa had a stellar career as a pitcher and all around player at Michigan, one of the top softball programs in the country, year in and year out.
“Marissa has gained experience as a head coach at a small university and as an assistant at a Division I program. All of those experiences have prepared her to be in charge of developing our pitchers and catchers as well as many other areas of our program.”
Young spent the last two seasons as an assistant at Eastern Michigan, where she served as the compliance liaison, recruiting coordinator and managed team travel and the operational budget, among other duties. She helped coach five Academic All-Americas and five players of the week during her time at Eastern Michigan.
“Coaching under Donna Papa, such a class act and quality person with her years of experience and success, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am so blessed to have,” Young said. “I could not be more excited to take over the pitchers and catchers for such a great program here at UNC. The bullpen is stacked with talent, and I am looking forward to helping them achieve thier goals this season.”
Prior to her stint at EMU, Young was the head coach at Concordia University (Ann Arbor, Mich.) from 2008-11. In less than three years with the program, she turned the 2-20 program to a 23-23 record, the second-most wins in a single season since an appearance in the 2002 NAIA National Tournament.
Young graduated from Michigan in 2003 as the all-time strikeout leader (927), and her 88 career wins became the second highest in program history. She also matched the then-program’s single-season home run record with 13 in 2003. Young also played two years of professional softball, one overseas in Italy and the second year with the Texas Thunder of the NPF.
A native of Santa Ana, Calif., Young has three children: Layla, Jolyna and Kayden.
Volunteer Assistant Coach
Suzanne Tadlock returns for her second year as the volunteer assistant for Carolina softball.
Tadlock joined the Tar Heels for the 2013 season after coaching high school softball at Leesville Road for 15 years, as well as serving as the Carolina Summer Softball Camps Director for the past two years.
“Suzanne brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our program,” head coach Donna J. Papa said of Tadlock’s hiring. “Most recently, she was responsible for establishing a leadership program for the Leesville softball team. Additionally, she has worked with the NCAA YES softball clinics at the DI, II, III levels as a field director and clinician.”
In addition to Tadlock’s coaching duties at Leesville Road, she is a physical eduction teacher as well as the department chair. Before coming to Leesville Road, she was the physical education director and athletics director for the Raleigh, N.C., chapter of the Boys and Girls Club of America.
Tadlock has also helped with numerous NCAA and NYSC softball clinics throughout her career and has assisted with UNC softball camps since 2007.
Tadlock is a graduate of UNC Greensboro (1990), where she played softball for the Spartans. She received her teaching certificate in 1999 from East Carolina University.
Director of Operations
Catherine Mitchell has served as the University of North Carolina softball's director of operations since 2010.
Mitchell, a native of Pilot Mountain, N.C., also served as a team manager for three years before graduating from the University of North Carolina in 2010. Mitchell is in her final year of law school and will graduate in May 2014 with a master's in sport administration in addition to her juris doctorate.
"I am excited to announce that Catherine will be working with us again this year," said head coach Donna J. Papa. "She brings a great amount of knowledge and stability to our program. Catherine has been a big part of our success over the last few years."
The Pilot Mountain, N.C., natives main duties will include travel planning, overseeing UNC's camps and clinics, organizing the Home Run Club (Carolina's main fundraiser) and equipment distribution. In addition, Mitchell will over see the Tar Heels' two new undergraduate managers.
"It is a little different now being in grad school and in a new position," said Mitchell. "It is more behind the scenes now than the past three years. I am looking forward in helping our new managers getting oriented in how things work."
In her new role, Mitchell is one of the longest tenured staff members at Carolina. The Tar Heels welcome two new assistant coaches into the program this season in Boo Gillette and Kirin Kumar.
"I think is was perfect timing because I am transitioning into a new position and so our the new assistants," Mitchell exclaimed. "It is still the same program and the same team and all of us are getting acclimated together."
The Pilot Mountain product enjoys working with Carolina softball and is excited to continue as she furthers her education.
"Working with the softball program was one of the best experiences I had as an undergrad," said Mitchell. "I am just thankful Coach Papa still wanted me to stick around. I chose UNC Law School in part because of this program. I plan to get a joint degree in UNC Law and Sports Administration over the next few years."