With warmer weather comes stolen bases, swinging lacrosse sticks, and cleats in the grass.
Spring sports are finally back, and all the teams' coaches share one goal: winning an Ivy League Championship. The feat will demand commitment and perseverance from all the players and coaching staff, but the Quakers appear ready for this uphill battle.
Baseball started strong this season, as the Quakers won a series upset against Texas A&M. Ahead of the season, head coach John Yurkow noted a desire to chase the Ivy League title, especially given the unpredictability of the pandemic.
“This year, even more so [because of] the disruptions that we experience because of COVID,” Yurkow said, “I think guys are more excited to start and get the season off to a good start here this weekend.”
Penn baseball went 6-8 overall in last year's abridged season, losing their first five games in a row — three against Villanova and two against La Salle. This season, the team aimed to not repeat the slow start. And so far, so good, as things are looking up for the team.
But with a roster of talents including junior Owen Coady, senior Tommy Courtney, and senior Kevin Eaise, who all starred this weekend, Penn looks poised to make a run at that title. To aid Yurkow's title chase, there are many returning players to contribute valuable leadership to the team.
“We’ve got five captains that we’re going to rely upon: Tommy Courtney, Craig Larson, Andrew Hernandez,” Yurkow said. “We also have Joe Miller and Kevin Eaise, who will be two of the starting pitchers. Those five guys are a pretty good place to start.”
Along with the old faces, the team expects to see some new names on the field. Yurkow looks forward to seeing how the freshmen on the team progress, as they'll get to show their skills in their first-ever collegiate games.
“[The freshmen] have done a pretty good job,” Yurkow said. “We’ve been at it for about nine or ten weeks total in the fall. Some are a little more ahead than others. I think just looking at guys on the team, specifically [at] the freshmen that can make an impact, there’s Cole McGonigal, an outfielder, and Ryan Dromboski. These are two guys that should see some time this weekend.”
At the moment, Penn softball holds a record of 2-3 with a win in its season opener against Hampton, 12-3, and its fourth game against Norfolk State, 10-2, during the Battle of the Bay. Last season, the team finished with a record of 5-5 and hopes of winning a title dashed. The softball team is excited to work towards an Ivy League title this season, especially with some exciting talents on its current roster.
“Every season, we want to be competing for an Ivy League title at the end of the spring, and I think that’s a very doable goal for this squad and something that we’ve been focusing on,” head coach Leslie King said. “We want to be in it going into the last couple weeks of the season.”
King also recognizes some standout players from the past seasons, who she hopes will make big contributions this year.
“Emma Nedley was Ivy League Rookie of the Year for freshman year,” King said. “Obviously, we haven’t had Ivy League play in [the] two years since then, but she’s a player who we expect to have an impact. We have a couple of sophomores that we expect to have an impact: Julia Mortimer and Sammy Fenton. Julia Longo, our senior pitcher, is outstanding; she’s definitely our number one, so we’re expecting a lot out of her as well.”
Some standout freshmen have also competed in their first collegiate softball games — an exciting opportunity for them to showcase their skills.
“The reality is our seniors are the only ones who have seen Ivy League play, so it’s not just the freshmen who we have to try to get into that mode,” King said. “It’s hard to replicate in a practice setting, even in offseason games like during spring break trips. Our senior class is going to have to be the leaders in that regard and try to give the younger players an idea of what it’s going to be like.”
Having lost its most recent game against Norfolk State, the Quakers hope to get right back on track with their next game against Fresno State this coming Friday.
Not only was it hard for women's lacrosse to lose two seasons, but the Quakers are playing with only two players on the team who played as freshmen. Coach Karin Corbett emphasized the importance of seniors Taylyn Stadler and Ellen O'Callaghan's leadership within the team, especially since they are the most experienced players on the roster.
Senior goalkeeper and DP sports associate Krissy Kowalski is also one of the few who saw time on the field as a freshman. Without the experience of playing collegiate lacrosse, the freshmen have the opportunity to step up and cement sizable roles for themselves.
“[Collegiate lacrosse is] a very different game [and] is much more physical,” Corbett said. “I want to get them to understand the physicality of the game, especially when attacking.”
Right now, the team is focusing on improving its game tactics, as the Quakers currently sit at 1-1, having won their first game against Delaware, 15-4, and losing their second against John Hopkins, 8-10. The Red and Blue have a chance at redemption this Wednesday, as they face off against Loyola Maryland at Franklin Field.
Similar to the women, men’s lacrosse sits at a beginning record of 1-1 after dropping its first game against Georgetown, 8-10, but defeating Duke this past weekend in an overtime thriller, 14-13. Like the other spring sports, an Ivy League title is on the mind of every player and coach.
Returning from a restricted season and having only played one game (a win against Cabrini), the team is eager to get back to Franklin Field. Many returning players will find playing time, including senior attacker Jack Schultz, who scored the game-winner against Duke, junior defender Peter Blake, and junior attacker Robert Schain.
Due to the COVID-19-induced break in action, the Quakers have 11 freshmen and eight sophomores who will be receiving their first meaningful collegiate playing time. Whether or not these players can integrate themselves effectively with the team will likely determine whether they can keep the momentum going from their big win on Saturday.