After sweeping a doubleheader from the University of Pennsylvania Saturday to stretch its winning streak to a season-high six, the softball team (12-18, 2-2 Ivy) hit a roadblock in the form of Princeton University Sunday.
The Tigers took the opener 5-1 with Yale’s only run coming in the third inning when Laura Beckert ’03 singled home Kristy Kwiatkowski ’05, who had doubled. Things continued the same way in the second game, and the Tigers blanked the Elis 2-0. Yale actually outhit Princeton 6-5 in the second game, but Beth Pavlicek’s ’06 only mistake of the game — yielding a two-run home run to reigning Ivy League Player of the Week Melissa Finley in the third inning — accounted for the final margin.
If the Bulldogs entered the set with the Tigers (13-10-1, 4-0) with a bit of trepidation, their fears were compounded early when Princeton put up a three-spot in the first inning of the first game. For an Eli team that hasn’t had much recent success against Princeton, that inauspicious opening was further cause for demoralization.
“Princeton is a really strong team, and we played a little more cautiously,” right fielder Jackie Crispell ’03 said. “We still had the excitement and we know we could beat them, but we were holding back a little bit. We didn’t have all the confidence we needed to have.”
The Elis were unable to answer back with a quick strike of their own, and Princeton added single runs in the fifth and seventh.
“With Princeton and our history with them, we were kind of intimidated more,” center fielder Britni Fabacher ’04 said. “We let it get to us at the beginning, and our bats were silent against their pitchers.”
Whereas the Bulldogs may have lacked resolve against Princeton, they were more than prepared for Penn the preceding day. The Bulldogs took it to the Quakers (6-19-1, 0-6) Saturday afternoon, pulling out 4-1 and 6-2 victories.
“It was a really great start to the [league] season,” Crispell said. “I don’t think we played nervous at all. We played with a lot of confidence and came together really nicely. We knew it was Penn and that it was one of the weaker teams in the Ivies. We just knew in our minds we were going to beat them.”
Pavlicek, the two-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week, got the win in the opener, allowing just five hits. Beckert was the catalyst for the offense, going 3-3 and driving in a run from the leadoff slot.
In the nightcap, Peggy Hunt ’06 was even stingier on the hill in yielding four hits and no earned runs. Pavlicek and captain Jesseka Bartholomew ’03 each had a pair of RBI in the victory.
“Last year we beat Penn pretty badly in the second game, so we were ready to play and very confident,” Fabacher said.
After a set with Sacred Heart Wednesday concludes a 16-game homestand in which the Elis have gone 10-4 thus far, the Bulldogs will hit the road for 10 consecutive games including eight within the Ivy League.
“We’re really excited to go on the road,” Crispell said. “Since we came back from Florida, we’ve been here the whole time. We’re excited to go traveling together. Having the games Wednesday can be a really good way to boost our confidence. No one’s nervous unless we’re playing in the Ivies. If we can pull out a couple of big wins it can get us in the right mindset for the weekend.”
Standing at 2-2 in the league, the Elis are clearly not out of the running for the title. But with such a tight pack in the middle, the next stretch will make or break the season.
“If we play our game, there’s no team we can’t beat in the Ivy League,” Fabacher said. “We need to make sure we get up for each game. Harvard’s not the powerhouse they used to be, and we’re really excited for those games. We’ve been playing well at home recently so it will be interesting to see how we adjust, but it should be really great. We’re looking forward to having the time together with just the team.”