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SOFTBALL 2004: Captains Crunch

Williamson and Brotemarkle have one last shot at an Ivy Title

By Jon Dienstag, Crimson Staff Writer

In the case of the Crimson softball co-captain rhyming duo of Sara and Kara, what’s good for the ear is good for the team.

Heading into their final spring season, second baseman Sara Williamson and pitcher Kara Brotemarkle will look to lead Harvard to its first Ivy title since 2000.

After Harvard finished its 2003 campaign on a sour note with an overall 15-26 record (7-7 Ivy), Sara and Kara plan to set a strong example on and off the field with an intense work-ethic and continual stellar play.

Following a stressful 2003 effort, which finished well short of fulfilling its high pre-season expectations, Sara and Kara lead a group that is determined to build and sustain momentum throughout the spring and maintain a focused environment on the Harvard bench.

“This has been a pivotal year for us, because last year we suffered a lot of inconsistency, an identity crisis of sorts,” Allard says. “We meandered, and it was frustrating for very many people.”

Both captains agree that this year is different and believe that the internal combustion that affected last year’s team will not repeat itself.

“Obviously for all of us it’s our last chance to play softball,” Brotemarkle says. “So you want to make it as valuable an experience as possible. We’re looking to have a better year than last year where things just got out of hand.”

“There is no repeat of that,” Williamson agrees. “[The difficulties] showed pretty early on last year. Based on what we’ve seen so far, it should be a very successful season and everyone wants to win.”

With last year’s frustrations behind them, Kara and Sara, along with the other two seniors, Rachel Goldberg and Montica Montijo, look toward the future and continue to focus on strong leadership.

“I think all of us have spent a lot of time trying to incorporate with everyone on the team and kind of set an example and lead and work together,” Brotemarkle says. “It seems to work out pretty well.”

“All four of us [seniors Williamson, Brotemarkle, Goldberg and Montijo] are very much on the same page as far as what we’re looking for this season and what we expect of each other and of ourselves and everyone else.” Williamson adds. “So that’s great to have four people who are very in sync. All four of us are very vocal on the team.”

Williamson and Brotemarkle, with camaraderie and competitiveness, have already shown the potential to lead the Crimson to one of its best finishes in recent memory.

“I think that they’ve really brought the program back in terms of expectations,” head coach Jenny Allard says.

“To us as coaches, we really see the difference, and the players too have said the leadership this year is pretty good.”

Coach Allard views her two senior captains as a strong unit essential to keeping the team moving in a positive direction. “I think they come together and compliment each other well,” Allard says. “I think Kara’s a good balance to Sara....She brings a very mindful presence. Sara is very organized and she is very good at thinking about all these things, and then Kara’s good to pull her in and say ‘Are we sure we want to do this?’”

Heading into their final season, the Sara and Kara duo have many individual accomplishments to feed off of, and they both hope to finish their respective careers with a bang.

Williamson, who earned first team All-Ivy League honors her freshman year and honorable mention her sophomore year, is a leader of Harvard’s offensive attack and represents half of the Crimson’s solid middle infield, manning second base alongside Goldberg at shortstop.

Williamson started this year off strong at the Brecthelsbauer Classic in Carbondale, Illinois, hitting for an average of .364.

“I usually start off really slow, actually, so I was a little bit shocked after the first weekend,” Williamson says. “I was happy with my performance. It’s always a battle learning how to hit in the Ivy Leagues. People think it’s an easy league to hit in, and I thought it was coming in, but it’s not.”

On the defensive side of the ball Williamson keeps a tight middle infield. With Goldberg, Williamson has grown comfortable in her position.

“We’ve both been there all four years and I think we have mastered the art of playing next to each other,” Williamson says. “We also have a lot of fun out there. We try very hard to make Kara smile when she’s on the mound, which is incredibly difficult.”

Brotemarkle headlines a strong Crimson pitching staff, and her accomplishments thus far have been impressive.

She earned second team All-Ivy League honors her sophomore and junior years, is third among Harvard’s all time strikeout leaders with 272, and threw her first no-hitter last year against Columbia.

“Kara is our senior ace,” Allard says. “She’ll be the leader of the staff, and she has established herself as that.”

Brotemarkle hopes to improve her reliability this year and give her offense a better chance to stay in every game.

“I felt like I was too inconsistent last year with my pitching,” Brotemarkle says. “So I definitely want to try and be more consistent in terms of keeping games close.”

Brotemarkle continues to stifle opposing batters with an impressive repertoire of pitches. She already has a strong fastball, curveball, screwball, and riseball, and she just recently added a changeup to her lineup of pitches.

“Everyone is excited about [the changeup],” Brotemarkle says. “We’ve been working a lot this year and trying to incorporate it, and the first weekend when I went out and threw it, I’d say probably 80 percent of the time it was not for a strike, but it’s been getting better every time I’ve thrown it.”

With the leadership of Sara and Kara, the Crimson should have the ability to capitalize on its talent and satisfy team goals. “This year is very focused,” Allard says. “We had a great month of February, and they just came in and focused.”

With only one spring of battle on the diamond left for Sara and Kara, they hope to complete their college softball campaigns on a strong note with no regrets.

“A ring would be nice,” Williamson says. “I just want to be satisfied, I was not satisfied at the end of last year. I want to be crying from happiness, not crying from what we could’ve done or what we should’ve done. We’ve got one shot. Let us walk away happy.”

“I just don’t want to regret anything,” Brotemarkle adds. “I just want to be happy at the end of the year and know that my last year finished well.”

Kara and Sara and the rest of the Harvard squad will take to the field more than 30 times this spring. If they are to take away anything from the season, these captains will ensure that they leave everything on the field.

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