After taking the Ivy League title with an 11-1 record last season, Harvard’s softball team once again looks to be the favored team for the title this year. However, with six other strong squads fighting for their chance and Columbia becoming eligible for the Ivy championships, anything is possible.
“The league is going to be tough this year,” said Cornell head coach Dick Blood. “The teams haven’t changed a lot; it’s going to be a dogfight. I know our club is looking forward to it, and having spoken to the other Ivy coaches this winter, I think everyone expects a real dogfight.”
Harvard is sitting on top of the Ivies right now, led by 1998 Ivy League Player of the year, senior pitcher Chelsea Thoke and sophomore pitcher Tiffany Whitton. Of Thoke, Blood commented, “She’s big and strong and fast.” These attributes will help lead a strong defense, but as Blood added, “They are loaded offensively, they are loaded defensively, they are loaded.”
The Big Green finished the season last year 7-5 in the Ivies and 32-16 overall. An Ivy title would be a first for Dartmouth, which returns all but one player to the lineup. On the mound, last year’s Rookie and Pitcher of the Year, Christine Quattrocchi will lead a young pitching staff consisting of three freshman. Last season Quattrocchi won 16 straight contests and was named first team All-Ivy, first team ECAC All-Star, second team All-Region and honorable mention All-New England. Also returning is second team All-Ivy player Carrie Hover. The first baseman batted .260 last year with a team leading 11 doubles. Kristin King is a two-time second team All-Ivy selection from her shortstop position, and will undoubtedly produce again for the Big Green
Under new head coach, Maureen Davies, the Tigers are looking to improve on last year’s .500 performance (6-6) in the Ivies. Davies is a former regional All-American and a three-time All-Ivy selection, and the Tigers are looking to her experience to move them back to the top of the Ivies. The squad returns 15 players and opened its season with a 1-0 win over Fairfield and a 12-3 victory over LaSalle at the Terrapin Invitational Tournament.
The Bears finished last season with a 6-6 Ivy record and a 14-28 overall mark. Brown will be led by senior infielder Tammi Parrott. Last season she was named to the All-Ivy first team as well as the All-Northeast Region first team. She split her time between third base and first base. Parrott — truly a team leader — led the Bears in almost every offensive category, including hits with 50 and a batting average of .431, the highest batting average in the Ivies. Classmate Ellie Blake, a pitcher, was named to the All-Ivy second team.
The Bulldogs are opening their season with a young squad in the brand new William DeWitt Stadium. With three of last year’s top hitters returning, Yale should post a strong offensive attack. Senior first baseman, Monica Lebron was a first team All-Ivy selection last year and led the team in most offensive categories, including hits (43) and batting average (.314). Defensively, senior Alice Liu is one of the strongest center fielders in the Ivy League and was also second in batting last year with an average of .304.
The Quakers finished the season with a 2-10 Ivy League record, settling for the last position in the standings. After a strong fall season, during which Penn improved from last year’s 1-7 record to a 7-4 mark, the team is excited for the spring. With two new pitchers, the Quakers believe their staff could be the key to improving on last year’s standings. Sophomore Becky Ranta was a force on the mound last year. She gave up just 38 walks in 127 innings and earned nine wins on the year. Penn will be counting on her to lead the newer players.
Columbia finished last year with a record of 13-18-2, not competing in the Ivy League. This spring will mark the Lions’ emergence into the Ivies and the team is looking to make a big impression.
Depth is the key to the Red and could be a strong factor in the team’s success this season. With 15 returnees, Cornell is looking to use its experience to duplicate the 1999 Ivy title. With a lot of team speed and versatility the Red should be able to make a big impact on the league. On the mound, senior Nicole Zitarelli will return to pace the Red. Zitarelli finished last year with a 17-9 record. In the outfield, senior captain Charlotte Brombach will return. A strong center fielder, she also led the team offensively, averaging .321 at the plate.
Right now it is hard to handicap the Ivy race, with so many teams battling it out for the top spot. Blood stated, “If one were to project a winner, [Harvard] won it last year and they are prepared to win it again. I think there are an awful lot of clubs that are prepared to say something about that, and not just one or two. I think there are five or six clubs in the league this year that could threaten the title. Right now the only thing certain is that the teams are ready to play and it should be a great year for softball.”