With the Ivy softball season well under way, every game is inherently important.
Playing against a rival fighting for the division crown adds even more weight. Throw in a pair of monumental milestones hinging on the game, and a weekend of passionate competition is about to ensue.
This weekend, Penn (12-15, 6-2 Ivy) will host division rival Cornell (21-10, 7-1) for their annual four-game set — a doubleheader Saturday at 3 p.m. and another 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Warren Field.
Aside from the weekend’s impact on the season standings, the Quakers have an added element of motivation. The first game of the series will mark the softball program’s 1000th game.
“The program isn’t that old, and it’s amazing to be a part of how the forty games each season and all the seasons have just added up,” coach Leslie King said.
The Big Red, however, are chasing their own piece of history. Cornell coach Dick Blood is one win away from his 500th career victory, a feat only achieved by one other athletic coach in the school’s history.
While Cornell may be hoping to continue their recent hot streak — the Big Red havewon 10 of their last 13 games — Penn is aiming to do anything it can to make Blood wait until the next series.
“We are going into this weekend taking it one game at a time,” junior captain Alisha Prystowsky said. “We aren’t okay settling for a split.”
The Quakers are one game back of the Big Red in the standings, coming off nine wins in 12 games. With each of the three losses coming in doubleheader splits against Lafayette, Dartmouth and Harvard, the team is hoping to reverse that trend and string a pair of victories together.
Yet if the team hopes to come away from the weekend victorious, it will have to find a way to match the Big Red’s league-leading offense, which has defeated the Quakers eight straight times.
“They score a lot of runs and seem to always hit in the best situations,” Prystowsky said. “We can counter it with great defense and clutch hitting.”
Yet no matter how well the rest of the squad plays, it is no secret as to how much pressure falls on the pitching staff when facing big bats.
“Taylor [Tieman’s] presence on the mound brings the whole team confidence,” King said. “We’ve got her, Chelsea Ott, and [Cailyn] Hennessy that can come in, and we are confident that they can contain any offense.”
With a couple wins this weekend, such pressure-packed games will only become the norm amidst a race to the Ivy crown.
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