The softball team did not enjoy much of a break down in Florida, beginning their 2005 campaign with 14 games over the two-week vacation. And while things may have been less than relaxing, the Elis showed that they have both the offensive and defensive potential to put together a strong campaign once the Ivy season rolls around.

The Bulldogs (4-10, 0-0 Ivy) return from the Sunshine State with a sub-par record, but team members said the annual trip down South is meant more to get the Elis back on their game than to post a winning record.

“The team is not happy coming back with [our record], but we’re still optimistic about our season,” catcher Kristy Kwiatkowski ’05 said. “Our games in Florida are more about learning from our mistakes and learning to play with new players in different positions than it is about winning.”

And despite the losing record, the Bulldogs did put together several excellent games.

On Mar. 16, the Elis came back to tie George Washington and eventually won in extra innings, 7-6. Captain Chelsea Kanyer ’06 hit an RBI single in the fifth inning to send center fielder Libby Peters ’05 home to knot the score at three apiece, forcing the extra frames.

The Elis posted a three-run eighth inning to claim the victory, as second baseman Christina Guerland ’07 scored on an error, Kanyer came home on a wild pitch and third baseman Kate Meserve ’07 drove left fielder Emily Lederer ’06 home with an RBI single.

Pitcher Ashley Linnenbank ’06 relieved Jessica Meyer ’07 after she had allowed four earned runs in five innings. The junior let only one earned run go by in securing the Eli comeback.

“I think we were especially pleased with the George Washington game,” pitcher Peggy Hunt ’06 said. “We got behind initially and then were able to come back and win it, which shows a lot about the strength of the team both offensively and defensively.”

The Bulldogs finished strong on Saturday as well. The Elis wrapped up their vacation by coming back up north to face Manhattan in a two-game set. The Jaspers dominated the opener, out-hitting the Bulldogs 14-6 and posting a four-run second inning en route to a 10-2 win.

But the Elis would play a very different game later that afternoon. The Bulldogs fell behind early again after a pair of Manhattan RBI singles in the second inning, but managed to take a 3-2 lead after a Kwiatkowski double in the third and a two-out, two-run single from Aracelis Torres ’08 in the fourth.

The Elis would fall behind again but rallied in the final frame. With one out, right fielder Niki Haab ’07 singled and then advanced to second on a ground out. Center fielder Courtney Blachford ’08 knocked the sophomore home to tie the game and wound up on third after her blast snuck past the Manhattan right fielder.

Guerland then sent the rookie centerfielder home with her third hit of the day to secure the Yale win. The sophomore had a particularly strong set of performances over the vacation, including her first career home run.

“Christina Guerland had a great series in Florida,” Hunt said. “She was strong at the plate with lots of key hits, as well as her first career home run, and defensively she continued to play a very solid second base.”

Linnenbank recorded the win after giving up only five hits and one earned run.

The Elis also had reason to be proud of several losses. Despite falling to St. Peter’s Mar. 8 and Bucknell Mar. 13, both games were 1-0 losses that featured strong Bulldog pitching from Linnenbank and Hunt, respectively.

Despite some hiccups over the break — including a pulled hamstring that will keep starting third baseman Parks on the bench until the beginning of Ivy play — the Bulldogs return to New Haven confident that they have gotten back into the groove of things. The Elis were red-hot at the beginning of the league season last year, but fell off the pace late and ended up in fourth with a 7-7 Ivy record. With Ancient Eight competition less than a month away, the Bulldogs feel confident and ready to face the usual foes.

“Our team is in a good place right now,” Haab said. “We played better in Florida than our record indicates, and towards the end of the trip we started to put more things together and played more complete games. Basically, we’ll use these next couple of weeks of non-league play to get out all the kinks, get our heads completely into things, and we should do well come April.”

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