Roundtable: Who has been Penn's best spring athlete?
Midway through Penn Athletics’ spring season, an intriguing combination of players have left an indelible mark on their respective teams’ successes in 2015. In recent weeks, Penn baseball has surged ahead, winning seven of eight Ivy games in dominating fashion, yet with no single person responsible for the hot streak. The women’s lacrosse and softball teams are humming along as well, with their usual cast of stars setting the tone for the Quakers.
As these teams and others prepare for a stretch run to the postseason, our editors answer one simple question: Which spring athlete has been the most impressive for the Red and Blue?
Sports Editor Colin Henderson: I have to go with Tory Bensen, Penn women’s lacrosse’s star senior attack.
Bensen’s numbers alone are probably impressive enough to give her the title. She has 37 goals on the season, more than twice as many as everyone on the team except fellow attack Iris Williamson. She is on pace to break her personal record of 41 goals in a season, which was good for tops on the team last year.
Aside from the sheer volume of goals she has scored, her efficiency has also been off the charts. She has put over 85 percent of her shots on goal and ultimately scored on over 53 percent of them.
But the numbers only paint part of the picture for Bensen. The Red and Blue have won eight consecutive Ivy championships, but they have always been known primarily for their stifling defense. Meanwhile, their offense has been seen as preventing the team from breaking through nationally — especially in recent years.
This year, the Quakers are changing that perception, featuring a dynamic, balanced and consistent attack, and Bensen is leading the way.
And on top of all this, she’s simply the best player on Penn’s most dominant athletic program. That needs to count for something.
Associate Sports Editor Tom Nowlan: Connor Cuff. The senior righty has been the ace of Penn baseball’s staff all season, helping the Quakers burst out of the conference gate with a 7-1 Ivy record.
Cuff’s statistics speak for themselves. His 1.78 earned run average is tops on the team and third-best in the Ivy League, while his three wins (and two complete games) tie him with fellow senior Ronnie Glenn for the most on the squad. Cuff has given up more than one earned run in a start only once, and that was in a March 29 complete-game victory over Red Rolfe Division-leading Dartmouth.
Coming into the season, Penn’s offense was a known entity — senior catcher Austin Bossart and senior infielder Jeff McGarry were expected to tear the cover off the ball, which they have. Combined with Mitch Montaldo’s Ivy-leading six home runs and Connor Betbeze's .356 batting average, the Red and Blue sport the most powerful offense in the Ancient Eight. However, the dominance of Glenn and Cuff — and Cuff in particular — has validated Penn’s preseason hype as the Ivy League favorite.
As the conventional wisdom goes, postseason success comes down to pitching and defense. With Cuff at the top of the rotation, the Quakers can be confident putting its late-season fortunes in his right hand.
Sports Editor Holden McGinnis: Another year, another star freshman for Penn softball. Last year, outfielder Leah Allen took the Ivy League by storm, earning unanimous first team All-Ivy and Rookie of the Year honors. Allen set single-season records for home runs (13) and RBI (43), while batting .383.
This year, it’s freshman catcher Jurie Joyner. The McDonough, Ga., native leads the team with a .439 batting average and ranks second on the team with 21 RBI. While the team hasn’t had the greatest season so far — currently sitting in second place in the South Division with a 4-4 conference record — Joyner has been a noteworthy bright spot.
The Quakers are currently second in the Ivies in runs scored per game with 4.77, due in large part to the continued growth of an offense that only lost two key contributors from last year’s starting lineup. While a tough early season schedule and inconsistent play in conference outings has limited the team to a .500 record, the team’s young trend sets them up for a strong future.