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Freshmen Contribute Early and Often For Softball

At Work
Two members of the softball team seen in action warming up.

The Harvard softball team (4-4) is two tournaments into its season after opening play at the JU Green and Gold Classic in Jacksonville, Fla., on Feb. 26. One week later, the team traveled to Georgia for the Eagle Classic.

“It is a lot of hard work—we have a lot of practices every week, but we makethe most of the time that we get together,” co-captain Morgan Groom said. “Weworked a lot on playing as a team on the field, supporting each other on the field and such. So we were really prepared, even though we are such a young team, to go into these two tournaments.”

“Our preseason feels like a long process when we are going day in and day out in the bubble and the football field,” co-captain Zoe Galindo added. “It is very trying and really helps build our stamina. What was nice about this year is that we were able to go outside in January and February unlike other preseasons.”

The Crimson welcomed a large freshman class of eight athletes, who have already proven vital to the team’s success this year. Freshman shortstop Rhianna Rich, who was recently named Ivy League Rookie of the Week, is batting a team-high .517 and has a .793 slugging percentage. The El Segundo, Calif., native has gone 15-for-29 at the plate in her first eight games, scored seven runs, drove in four runs, knocked two triples, and recorded her first career homer in Harvard’s first two weekends of play. Freshmen pitchers Kathleen Duncan and Sarah Smith’s performances on the mound also helped the Crimson to a 3-1 record on its opening weekend. Both Smith and Duncan anchored the Crimson in their debuts, with Smith allowing just one hit and Duncan just one run on four hits, earning saves for the team.

“Our freshman class is great,” Groom said. “With eight of them, they are definitely a very large, very vocal group, but they are absolutely awesome. On the field they don’t play like freshman. They come out there, and they play big. They play with a lot of confidence, which is great. And off the field, they are a really fun group of people, and they’re fun to hang out with.”

This pool of talented freshman joins a Crimson squad that finished as the runner-up in the Ivy League North Division for the third straight season last year. Harvard went 23-21 overall and posted a 13-7 conference record. On its home diamond, the Crimson recorded a dominating 11-3 mark. The young team will look to top its recent second-place finishes to come out on top of the Ivy League this spring.

“Overall, I am really excited to start...Ivy League season,” Groom said. “I think we have a really good team this year, and we should be able to compete very well with the other teams this year.”

Leading the team for her 22nd season as head coach is Jenny Allard, the Ivy League’s most tenured coach and one of its most successful. Allard boasts a 536-400-3 overall record, including a 252-102-1 Ivy League mark. Allard has headed Harvard softball for half of the program’s existence and been at the helm for all of the Crimson’s six Ivy League titles, each of its six 30-win seasons, and its five NCAA Championship berths.

Allard welcomes three new additions to her coaching staff this year. Assistant coach Nicole D’Argento joined the Harvard staff in July after spending a year as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Army. In August, Allard also announced the addition of Lacy Wood as her new top assistant coach. Wood\ comes to Harvard after serving as an assistant coach at Eastern Kentucky for three years and as volunteer coach at her alma mater Louisville in 2012. In February, Jenny Rohn was added to the ranks as a volunteer assistant coach for the Crimson. Rohn graduated from Western Michigan in 2015, where she was a member of the softball team for four years and a captain for two.

“Coach Lacy, Coach Nick, and Coach Jenny have been absolutely awesome,” Groom said. “They bring a lot of knowledge to the coaching staff, which is great, but [they] are also very, very supportive and very fun to be around especially on these long trips on the weekend.”

Harvard will travel to California to play in two tournaments over spring break—the Loyola Marymount Tournament and the San Diego State Classic II—and will have its home opener on March 29 against local rival Boston College.

“We are really excited to show people how well we have meshed as a team and are still excited to go and compete on the field,” Groom said.

–Staff writer Ginny Miller can be reached at virginia.miller@thecrimson.com.

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