BY RILEY PALSHAW
After the departure of varsity softball coach Jim Pingree, who led the Padres to two league titles in the past three years, Carmel High School has hired Cristina Borek, a 2008 CHS alumna and registered nurse who excelled at the varsity level in high school and went on to play four years at North Dakota State.
“It’s just a really great group of girls, and I’m excited and privileged to be their coach,” Borek says.
Pingree announced his departure at the end of the 2019 season after the team finished first in the Mission Division of the Pacific Coast Athletic League with a 13-2 league record. The Padres progressed to the quarterfinals of the CCS Division Ⅱ playoffs, where they lost to Aptos.
This season Borek hopes to use her knowledge of the game to continue to improve the program after coaching the JV team for three seasons and assisting it last year. She has also assisted a varsity team at Moorhead High School in Moorhead, Minnesota.
“We were looking for someone who was going to continue to lead our program in a positive way because the program’s been in a really good place,” athletic director Golden Anderson says. “Coach Pingree did a really good job, and we had a support staff in place, and student-athletes had a good time and were enjoying their experience and we want that to continue.”
Borek has been asking for the players’ input on aspects of the program and what they want Carmel softball to be.
“I want them to be the best that they can be out here,” she says. “I’m going to provide the structure needed for them, but it’s their decision in the end.”
The players have caught on to Borek’s methods and are enjoying the fact that their wishes are being acknowledged.
“Just from the preseason meetings and the workouts I’ve been to, Cristina has seemed like she really cares about the girls and actually wants to take into account our preferences,” says senior Kendra Hyles, who led the Padres in almost every offensive category and made the Monterey Herald’s All-County Softball Team in 2019.
The new hire also aims to keep the program strong by keeping the game consistent from the JV to varsity level.
“We’re going to give everyone the same experience,” Borek says. “I believe it’s super important because it ups the expectations of the younger girls to be at practice with varsity players, and it brings their level up.”
Younger players are going to need to raise their level of play with the graduation of Jessica Pavloff, the All-County senior pitcher who gathered 100 strikeouts in 105 innings last season.
“It’s always hard to lose a senior pitcher that had such a successful season prior,” Borek says. “It’s going to mean a lot of learning opportunities for some of the younger players and a lot of opportunities for them to show up and live up to those expectations.”
Assisting Borek is Jordan D’Aurio, who played softball at Nichols College, and Sierra Alvarez, a CHS graduate who coached field hockey at Stevenson High School.
Even though the assistant coaches are new to Carmel softball, Borek has been around this program for years and has already bonded with and earned the respect of many of the girls.
“Since I met Coach Cristina last season I have always thought very highly of her,” says sophomore Mary Cardinalli, who played on the JV team last year. “She is a very experienced coach and it shows.”
The team is currently preparing for their first game which will take place March 3 at San Lorenzo Valley.
“[Cristina’s] vision for the girls will lead them to not only become great softball players,” says D’Aurio, “but grow and mature into amazing young women who can take on anything they set their minds to.”