Julia Longo channels mental toughness when she’s up on the mound, and it's made her a successful pitcher for Penn softball. The junior has learned and grown a lot from her time at Penn and is hopeful that she will continue on that track.
Longo has humble beginnings in the sport but has learned to define the experience into what she wants it to be.
“I started playing softball in kindergarten,” Longo said. “As I got older I liked being on a team, not that that’s specific to softball, but I’m also very competitive. I’ve always had a really good experience playing softball, and my parents allowed me to decide when I wanted it to become more competitive. Once I realized that I had the opportunity to play in college, I started taking it more seriously and playing on some travel teams.”
She credits her current success in part to her family.
“I have a very supportive family that let me decide what I wanted to do with softball and let me make my own path within it.”
While searching for the best place to continue her softball career, Longo was drawn to Penn for more than just the athletics, and it has since become her home away from home.
“It was finding that really good balance between education and athletics," the Arlington, Va. native said. "Getting an Ivy League education — nothing beats that. Also, when I came on my visit the softball field was absolutely gorgeous and I thought, if I’m going to be going down to practice every day, I would want a nice view.”
Longo credits her success on the mound thus far to building up an unstoppable mindset and learning more about softball at a collegiate level.
“The biggest adjustment coming out of high school and coming to college was the mental aspect of the game. Before coming here, it didn’t really click to me that every single girl you’re playing is a very solid player, so with every girl I pitch to I’m not just going to get an easy out,” she said.
“Having the mental stamina to push through and understand that I’m not going to come out at the top of my game every time and I need to be able to handle that.”
She also learned that being on a team is also a useful support network for getting through Penn.
“The biggest takeaway has been learning how to work with different types of people and also finding that network of support, knowing you have a teammate and relying on them a lot,” she said. “When I first came here I would keep all of my little problems to myself, but throughout the years I found it’s way more effective and a relief to me just to vent to a teammate about what’s going on as a heads up so that they know how to handle that.”
Throughout the 2019 season Longo worked alongside her team to become a better pitcher and it worked out for her. In 2019 she was starting pitcher 12 times in the season and also earned the title of Ivy League Pitcher and Rookie of the week for the week of March 25, 2019. She also led her team to six wins during the 2019 season.
Longo relates some of her success to working closely alongside previous teammate Jennifer Bran.
“The fact that Jennifer Bran was on the pitching staff was huge for me because we worked really well together and we were in a very good place,” Longo said. “We would switch on and off every other game and we knew each other very well, so when I would come off the mound and something wasn’t working she’d be right there to tell me what it was.”
Although the 2020 season was cut short, Longo is optimistic about 2021 and what she can achieve.
“So far in this season, I’ve come out way stronger in the beginning of the year than I usually do,” she said. “Over quarantine when we weren’t playing, I would still pitch at least twice a week and make sure I was staying on top of everything. What I want to get out of this season is progressing on everything I had time to work on when we weren’t playing”
This type of mindset is not new for Longo. According to her high school coach, Maurice Tawil, Julia has always been an achieved and focused player. In high school she became a starting pitcher in her freshman year and helped her team to the Liberty Conference Championships.
“We play good softball in this region and it’s tense,” Tawil said. “Julia is cool — she’s cool, calm, and collected — you can’t tell if she’s winning or losing. In the biggest moments she doesn’t flinch, she just delivers and executes and that’s hard. That’s not an easy characteristic to have,” Tawil said.
As far as her plans for the future, Longo has plans to continue a meaningful career playing softball.
“I’ve entered the transfer portal and have been talking to some other schools about hopefully transferring after my time at Penn,” Longo said. “[I] definitely want to continue to play after Penn. If I can have the opportunity to go to another great school and play I definitely don’t want to miss out on that”
Longo doesn’t just want to play, she also wants to continue giving back to future players.
“Since high school, I’ve always given pitching lessons at home during the summers and softball lessons in general. I’ve worked with the national youth baseball academy for a bit,” Longo said. “I’ll definitely continue to give back to the sport of softball. I think it’s really empowering for young girls, and if I can share my college experience and inspire some girls to play in college, then I would love to continue to do so.”
Longo will no doubt continue to shape the future of softball for herself and possibly others with her hard work and mental toughness.