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Entering Ivy League play on a major hitting streak, sophomore infielder Sarah Cwiertnia hopes to keep it rolling in a four-game set to open conference play.

Credit: Bonnie Mendelson

A lot can change in the Ivy League from year to year, and with last year’s league leaders coming to town, it looks like Penn softball is on the better side of the new Ancient Eight order.

The Quakers begin conference play with contests against Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend.

The Red and Blue (9-8) host the Crimson (8-9) in a doubleheader on Friday before taking on the Big Green (1-18-1) in another doubleheader the next day.

Penn was scheduled to play Lehigh this past Tuesday, but the game was cancelled because of inclement weather. As such,The Quakers will look to use the extra rest to their advantage this weekend, while also keeping up momentum from their victories in both games against Rider last Sunday.

Heading into Ancient Eight competition, Penn is the only Ivy League team holding a record above .500. With this show of strength over the competition, the Quakers are justifiably optimistic for a return to the Ivy League Championship Series, which they missed last year for the first time in five seasons.

So far this season, Penn’s pitching has led the way to its strong start. Senior pitcher Alexis Sargent, recently named Ivy League Player of the Week, has continued her dominance from the last campaign with a league-best five wins and sixty strikeouts – including back-to-back ten-strikeout performances against Iona and Rider last week. Sargent and fellow senior Courtney Cuzick each have sub-2.50 ERAs for the Red and Blue this season.

On the other side of the plate, senior outfielder Leah Allen has notched a league-best twelve runs scored and nine stolen bases leading off, while sophomore infielder Sarah Cwiertnia has heated up recently with a .436 batting average, five runs, eight RBIs and a home run in the last seven games. She now leads the Ivy League with 18 RBIs.

Looking to Friday, Harvard, the defending Ivy League runner-up, has been up-and-down so far this season in non-conference play. The Crimson have lost seven of their last eight games after winning five contests in a row. Like the Quakers, the Crimson had their last scheduled game postponed and will come into the meeting having had ample time to rest, as their last game took place on March 18th in a 5-4 loss to Connecticut.

Despite having won two of the past three Ivy League titles, Dartmouth has also played poorly so far this season. The Big Green just earned their first win of the season this past Saturday visiting the University of California Riverside but then fell to UCLA on Sunday.

The Quakers are anxious to get off to the right start in conference play, but even though the visitors aren’t at their best, Penn will still have to beat last year’s Ivy leaders to have the weekend they’re hoping for.