Yale’s softball team will head south over spring break to step onto the field for the first time in 2005.

The team leaves this afternoon for its annual Florida training trip, during which the Bulldogs will play 14 games over the next two weeks, against mostly east coast teams.

This year’s captain, first baseman Chelsea Kanyer ’06, who garnered honorable mention all-Ivy honors last season, was optimistic about the trip to the Sunshine State.

“We’re looking forward to learning how to play as a team and getting back into the rhythm of things,” Kanyer said.

The Elis start off their season under Kanyer’s strong leadership. After leading the team in batting (.381) and doubles (9) last season, the Washington native was elected team captain after only her sophomore year.

“[Kanyer is] really great at pumping everybody up,” third baseman Meredith Parks ’07 said. “Basically she takes care of everything.”

The Eli season kicks off in Osceola, Fla. The Bulldogs play 14 squads, including Bucknell, La Salle, Fairleigh Dickinson and Butler, but no Ivy League schools.

The Bulldogs will be playing against teams with 10 or so games already under their belts. Despite this obstacle, the team is enthused to finally start playing against some real competition.

Second baseman Christina Guerland ’07 thinks that the long trip will also help the Elis get in shape for a successful season.

“We’re going down there with the mindset that we have a lot to work on,” Guerland said. “We’ll get a lot accomplished.”

The 2004-2005 Bulldogs are also a very young team. There are only two seniors on the team — catcher Kristy Kwitakowski and outfielder Rachel Kelley. Kwiatkowski was an all-Ivy pick for the third-straight year last season, and Kelley returns to the Bulldogs after a year of studying in Spain.

With the vast amount of youth on the team, being able to rally around a strong leader is crucial. Kanyer seems to already be doing a good job of that.

“This is a really tight-knit team, with good chemistry,” Kanyer said. “We’re really excited to go down to Florida.”

The team is smaller this year, with only 14 players, but the captain sees this as advantageous to fostering a closer clubhouse.

The team finished fourth last year in the conference, but it expects to do much better this year. Two freshmen, Courtney Blachford and Aracelis Torres, have come in to replace last year’s strong seniors, and the team is dominated by a potent sophomore class, whose members now have a year of experience to rely on. In addition to Guerland, the crop of solid second-year players includes outfielder Niki Haab, an honorable mention All-Ivy selection last year, and infielders Parks and Kate Meserve.

Last week, the team had a meeting to set out goals for the season. But right now, the team is just ready to get out in the sun and start playing again outside.

“We’re all really excited for this year — more so than last year,” Parks said. “We look better because we feel better.”

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