softball

Sophomore outfielder Leah Allen was absolutely dominant in the batter's box last season, racking up a team-leading .383 batting average.

Photo: Michele Ozer

The 2015 season is on the verge of opening, and the women of Penn softball are eager to break out of their bubble, both in the literal and metaphorical sense.

Literally, the team has been holed up inside Penn Park’s temporary inflatable dome, colloquially known as “the bubble” among Penn athletes, for the last month due to inclement weather. In just four days, though, the team will jet to Florida for two tournaments on fields of real grass underneath blue skies.

“We’re just really excited to get out on the field,” senior outfielder Sydney Turchin said.

Farmer tans aren’t all that await the Quakers in the Florida sunshine, though. The team will play 11 games in six days against teams from around country. First up is the USF Under Armour Showcase on March 6 to 8. Penn will face Bowling Green, Toledo, Dayton, Wagner and Central Michigan.

Then, from March 8 to 12, Penn will compete in the USF Spring Tournament, with games against St. Joseph’s and Bowling Green and doubleheaders against Syracuse and Central Michigan.

Although these games are important for setting the tone for the season, they are little more than a warm up for the Quakers whirlwind spring schedule against Ivy foes.

Now is where the bubble metaphors come in, as what was a freshman-heavy roster last year has now blossomed into a more mature, more aggressive squad. Penn looks poised to burst through the barrier from a good team to a truly dominant team.

Despite starting off the 2014 season 4-11, Penn was able to snap its losing tendencies and finish the season in second place behind a powerhouse Dartmouth team. This year, the Quakers are looking for redemption — when asked what game she was most looking forward to for the 2015 season, Turchin blurted out “Dartmouth” without even a half second’s hesitation.

Why? For one, it’s the Ivy opener. And it’s the rematch of 2014’s Ivy League championship game. “You can’t get much better than that,” Turchin exclaimed.

Beating Dartmouth will be just one step of many on Penn’s path towards achieving its goals for the season. This year, there are three: win the South Division, win the Ivy title, and win games at NCAA Regionals. However, those games that determine the South Division Champion, the Ivy Champion and beyond are still months in the future — and the season has not even technically opened yet — so, for now, the Quakers are taking things one play at a time.

Offensively, sophomore outfield star Leah Allen will provide the main spark behind the Red and Blue’s bats. Last season, the then-freshman unanimously earned Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors and rewrote Penn’s single-season records with 13 home runs and 43 RBI’s. In the sport’s 20 conference games, Allen was good for .458 behind the plate — a staggering statistic given that she will only get more powerful and more adept in the batter’s box as she grows older.

“She’s a very strong hitter,” Coach Leslie King said. “I don’t foresee her seeing as many strikes as she may have seen last year, especially in the league, so we’ve been working with her on being super patient and making sure she’s swinging at strikes.”

Beyond just Allen, the Quakers can look to a batting lineup of skilled veterans in sophomore Alexis Sargent and junior Korinne Raby.

“We’ve got very good team speed, so I feel good about our lineup,” King said.

On defense, King expects junior Kanani Datan and Turchin to “set the table” for Penn, lending a veteran presence to the Quakers’ outfield.

It is probably still too early to make anything close to an accurate prediction about the end of the season, but with the team’s strong core of returners and surging confidence, it seems like Penn might just be unstoppable.

Perhaps King puts it best:

“I’d like to think everything is our biggest strength.”

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