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“This year we are definitely in it for blood,” said first-year outfielder Lael Ayala.
After falling to Princeton in the 2022 Ivy League Softball Championship, the Crimson is ready to reclaim their lost title. The Harvard softball team was ranked second behind the Princeton Tigers in the 2023 Ivy League Preseason Poll, and this second place ranking may be the motivation the Crimson need to upset predictions and defeat the reigning champions.
Head coach Jenny Allard has “put more pressure on the team in practice and trained at a much higher level” than last year, and the veteran coach is “really optimistic heading into the year.”
Allard was inducted into the NFCA Hall of Fame this past December and will begin her 27th season as the head coach of the Harvard Softball team. Allard believes that the team returns with a “strong cohort of players.” Out of 26 players, 17 are upperclassmen, giving the team plenty of experience. Six players are super seniors, and were therefore a part of the 2019 Ivy Championship team.
Allard also feels confident about her recruited class of five talented first-years: on the pitching side, right-handed pitcher Riley Flynn, who has experience from two high school state championships in Arizona “is really seasoned in her ability to play at a championship level.” Additionally, pitcher Ryan Grace has “added a lot of depth as the only lefty on the team,” according to Allard.
On the offensive side, Ayala is a disciplined batter and a “really good caller at the plate.” Lastly, infielders Lillian Cooper and Finley Payne are both “strong power hitters whose offense has really made an impact,” Allard said. Furthermore, Allard believes that the team has excellent leadership, spearheaded by senior captains Brianna Jewett and Kaitlin Lampson, and junior captain Lauren Bobowski. At the end of the 2022 season, Bobowski was a First-Team All-Ivy selection, and Lampson received All-Ivy Honorable Mentions.
The team has been upping their game in the weight room and doing a lot more conditioning compared to previous seasons. Additionally, the team is much more focused on mental discipline and focus. Last week, a sports psychologist came in to talk to the team for two hours, and then each player was required to have individual meetings with him.
Coach Allard believes that her team’s defining characteristic is that they have “a lot of grit.” The Crimson’s ability to “really dig deep in tough moments and perform under pressure” will be a key ingredient as it seeks to get back to the top of the Ivy League.
Ayala thinks that the Crimson’s superpower is that they “are not just a team, [they] are a family,” and she believes this family culture will translate to success on the field and help the team capture the Ivy Championship ring.
The Harvard Softball team opened its 2023 season this weekend at the Garnet & Gold Tournament in Rock Hill, SC. In their first game on Friday, they fell short against the Winthrop University Eagles, losing 3-2. However, on Saturday the Crimson bounced back and came out with a 6-4 victory against the Eagles and a narrow 6-5 triumph against the Fordham Rams. On Sunday, the Crimson once again came out victorious against North Carolina Central University, winning 5-4.
After a promising season opener tournament, The Crimson will travel to Boiling Springs, NC this upcoming weekend to play in the Red and Black Softball Tournament.
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