Come May 3, Penn softball is hoping for a little deja vu.
For the second year in a row, the Quakers (18-20-1, 13-6-1 Ivy) will take on Dartmouth in the Ivy League Championship series in Hanover, N.H.
Penn has split its last two appearances in the ILCS, losing to Harvard in 2012 and defeating the Big Green in 2013.
While the Red and Blue’s upperclassmen on the team know what it is like to face the Big Green in such a high-stakes situation, they make up less than half the roster. Dartmouth, on the other hand, has 10 returnees out of 16 players.
The teams last met a month ago on Dartmouth’s campus, with Penn dropping both games in the doubleheader by margins of 3-2 and 12-1.
As of late the Quakers have been sliding. Penn had dropped its last two games against Columbia and Villanova. Despite the lack of momentum, coach Leslie King is optimistic.
“This group has really pulled together since Harvard/Dartmouth weekend when we went into our divisional play,” she said. “We’ve played hard for each other.”
Junior pitcher Alexis Borden will likely be the rock steadying Penn’s championship hopes. Borden has the third-lowest earned run average in the Ancient Eight at 1.91, not to mention two years of experience of high-stakes play against the Big Green.
Although the Red and Blue have not been tallying wins heading into the Championship Series, Borden has been on fire. In the series against Columbia, she struck out 17 batters while picking up three wins, a feat good enough to earn her Ivy Pitcher of the Week honors.
Penn will rely on Leah Allen and Alexis Sargent — a duo of freshman powerhouse hitters — to get runs on the scoreboard against the Big Green. This season, right fielder Allen and designated hitter Sargent have been consistent playmakers in the batter’s box.
Allen leads the team with a .384 batting average and 13 home runs. Sargent is not far behind, with a .314 batting average and 9 home runs. In last week’s four-game series against South Division foe Columbia, Sargent collected seven hits in nine at bats.
While this pair of freshmen has certainly been one of the main reasons for the Quakers’ 13 conference wins, everyone on the roster contributed to Penn’s third consecutive South Division title.
“It’s been a team effort,” King explained. “Because you win as a team, and you lose as a team.”
Although Penn’s offense has been a highlight in its last three series against teams in the South Division, it will face a tough test in Dartmouth’s pitching rotation. The Big Green has one of the best pitchers in the Ivy League in junior Kristen Rumley. Rumley leads the Ancient Eight in strikeouts with 179 this season, and her earned run average of 1.85 is second only to Harvard’s Laura Ricciardone.
It is clear that winning a second consecutive Ivy League title will be no walk in the park for the Quakers. But the team has been preparing for this moment all year.
Now, all that is left is for the Red and the Blue to do is go out and take it.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Penn was facing Dartmouth in its third straight Ivy League Championship Series. Penn played Harvard, not Dartmouth, in 2012. The DP regrets this error.