Sometimes things just don't turn out as you expect them to.
As the Penn softball team gears up for the final contests of the regular season this weekend against Columbia (13-30, 5-11 Ivy), that seems to be the overarching theme. The team had high expectations coming into the season, but now they need a lot of help to even have a shot at making the Ivy League Championship Series.
The Red and Blue's overall record of 21-19 heading in the last weekend is quite similar to last year's end of the year total, but that has not been the problem for the team this year. Rather, their conference play has led them to a position they do not want to be in.
With a 7-9 record against the Ancient Eight, the Quakers (21-19, 7-9) are currently on the outside looking in on the playoffs. They are three games back of Ivy South Division leading Princeton (17-25, 10-6), who plays a four-game series against Cornell this weekend.
"Obviously we want to be in the Ivy League Championship, that's our goal going into the season," Penn coach Leslie King said. "We're not out of it, and we're going to fight with everything we have this weekend. Would we like to be in better standing right now? Of course."
In order for Penn to reach a tie atop the division, they have to win at least three games this weekend and Princeton has to lose at least three games. If the Quakers cannot pull off a miracle and find their way into the Ivy League Championship Series, it will end their streak of four consecutive Ivy South titles.
The team's current predicament cannot be chalked up to poor performance, as the Quakers have played well throughout many of their losing efforts. Rather, the Red and Blue have simply ended up on the wrong side of a number of close contests. The team has lost all three of their extra-inning games in Ivy play and witnessed several walk-off defeats.
"We've been unfortunate and have had four walk-off wins against us in the first half of doubleheaders away, and that's really hard to bounce back from," King said. "I think we've shown a lot of resiliency, which is a good thing, but just a couple things didn't go our way, and if a couple of games swing the other way we'd be in a much better spot."
Friday represents an extra important set of games for the Quakers, as it will be their Senior Day at Penn Park. The seniors will be playing at home for the Red and Blue for the final times in their careers, and it is sure to be an emotional day.
"I think you would get a different answer from all three of us, but I'm someone who kind of knew there was an end date," senior captain Kanani Datan said. "I made my peace with it, so I'm not as sentimental as somebody else."
Datan, along with fellow seniors Korinne Raby and Lauren Li, will be honored on the field with their families before the first game on Friday. The festivities give the Quakers another reason to finish the season strong.
"You want to go out and put on a good performance for [the seniors]," King said. "You want them to go out feeling good. You're honoring them, and you want to be at your very best on Senior Day."
Time is running out on Penn's season, and the team still has a lot of work to do this weekend if they want to give their seniors a fitting ending.
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