Penn softball enjoyed a year of ground-breaking, record-smashing and history-making this season as it toppled its way to the top of the Ivies and proved on the national stage that it — and the rest of the Ivies — can compete with the storied franchises of the country.
But, this feat was accomplished with seven extraordinarily talented and experienced seniors. Those seven players were all in from day one at Penn and the question is whether or not this team can reproduce an Ivy Championship season.
In a post-game interview following the heartbreaking loss to Arizona, coach Leslie King noted that the bar had been raised for the Red and Blue’s softball program, not only with respect to its goals during the season but also due to the acknowledgement it received from playing in the NCAA Regional Finals.
Fans won’t see the immediate impact of the Penn prestige on this year’s recruiting class, but that’s not to say this year’s recruits won’t step in and make an impact.
King has a knack for picking up grade A talent in all of her recruiting classes, such as Alexis Borden, Lauren Li and Sydney Turchin in her two most recent classes.
What is important for the Quakers to address is their inconsistency with the bats. This issue plagued them in their Florida tournaments and against top talent (Monmouth, Texas A&M and Arizona).
Granted, playing against pitchers like the Aggies’ Mel Dumezich is a challenge for any batter, but there are no excuses for dry spells with quality hitters like Turchin, Elysse Gorney, Georgia Guttadauro and Kayla Dahlerbruch on the squad.
The flashes of brilliance that were enjoyed from senior performances must become the norm for the recruiting class of 2016.
Korinne Raby will hopefully contribute more of her hitting prowess, Amanda Gisonni will in time develop to provide great depth for Li and Borden, and Kanani Datan, who served as a flex runner this season, will have to step up in the outfield among others.
But, what is the most critical — and what spurred Penn to greatness — was the outstanding senior leadership. Guttadauro, Dahlerbruch, Turchin and Borden are the only four starters returning to the field on the defense.
Penn has the talent and depth to remain competitive and a top defense, but it must happen quickly.
Fans saw a glimpse into the Penn future in an earlier mid-season match up with Drexel resulting in a win for the Quakers, 3-2. In that game, King sat most of her starters for the mid-week afternoon, giving them a breather before returning to Ivy play on the weekend.
However, the Red and Blue did not earn a single run due to Drexel’s errors. While a small body of work, Penn shows that it has some luck on its side as well as skill.
However, you should have confidence that King and her staff will foster the development of their younger players. The young leaders of this team will only become more vocal over time and hopefully fill the shoes of this year’s senior class.
Penn is not the clear favorite to defend their Ivy title, as Dartmouth is looking to exact revenge, but the team will have internal expectations of nothing short of a potential NCAA Super Regional Final bid.
After the season the Quakers had, that’s a feat that is not farfetched after all.
JIMMY LENGYEL is a College freshman from Pensacola, Fla. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com