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This Friday, the Harvard softball team will leave the very close confines of Carey Cage, where it has practiced for the past six weeks, and head south for Fort Meyers, Fla.
But the Crimson hopes to get more than a good tan down south. With a versatile cast of players at hand, Coach Barry Haskell hopes to experiment with lineup combinations, and formulate a plan of attack for its future Ivy League games.
"We have a bunch of new talent. Now its just a matter of adapting to new faces," said sophomore Ann Kennon. "Spring break will give us an opportunity to get to know each other and begin playing as a unit."
While in Florida, the squad will compete in the nine-game Women's Collegiate Classic Softball Tournament.
Last year, the Crimson finished with an encouraging 5-4 record in the tournament, but this season it hopes to make even bigger waves down south.
With the addition of seven freshman, Harvard should be stronger than ever. Despite losing the services of graduates Bev Armstrong, Rachael Donaldson and Beth Reilly (1991 Ivy League Player of the year), Haskell has many options at his fingertips.
"Rip [Reilly] had an unflappable attitude, and we also lost leadership in Rachael and Bev, but what we've lost in attitude we've got in talent," Co-Captain Julie Fromholz said. "Everyone realizes our potential and is very committed."
Harvard is determined to achieve a number of goals this season. First, it hopes to improve upon last year's 21-17-1 overall record. The Crimson has also set its sights on the Ivy League title, and, along the way, hopes to down its arch-rival, Princeton.
"An Ivy Championship is certainly not an unobtainable goal," Kennon said. "This is a very diverse team. Almost anyone can play any position."
Such flexibility can be a huge bonus to Haskell--or it could be a recurring headache. A number of players have rotated through the infield and outfield positions but nothing is set in stone.
Co-Captains Chris Carr and Fromholz shared pitching duties for the Crimson last year, but freshman Jen Kimball, Jana Meader and Liz Walker will also see time on the mound this season.
"Its very exciting to have five pitchers this year," Fromholz said. "Depth has been a problem in the past, since our schedule is so intense."
The logjam both on the mound and behind the plate has kept other positions up in the air. Once the coaches decide on a few primary pitchers and catchers, the other positions could fall into place.
Meader should see some work in centerfield and both Kimball and Carr have practiced at second base.
Catchers sophomore Christine Vogt, sophomore Becky Pocius, junior Nancy Johnson, freshman Daniel Belanger and freshman Heidi Thompson could rear their ugly heads anywhere on the field.
In the infield, the biggest void is at the hot corner where Reilly played for the past four seasons. Sophomores Kennon and Nicole Desharnais have been getting their feet wet at third base, as has freshman Cheryl Sadow.
"I think a lot of returning infielders were intimidated by the thought of filling Rip's hole," said Fromholz. "We won't have a ton of experience at third, but with our depth, whoever plays will be good."
Senior and venerable leader Liz Resnik will probably be the primary firstbaseman, but Walker could challenge for some playing time.
A number of players will be seen roaming the fences for the Crimson. Junior Katie Fitta is a sure bet at one of the positions, and she will probably be joined by Meader and sophomore Amy Belisle.
Because the team recognizes its potential and depth, Harvard is confident it can find the combination that works.
"We were happy with our overall record last season, but dissatisfied with our Ivy record [2-6]," Fromholz said. Both records should be substantially better this season.
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