Conference play is fast approaching for the softball team, which will open its Ivy League slate at Penn this Friday before traveling to Columbia on Saturday for a pair of doubleheaders.

Yale (3–13, 0–0 Ivy) will be looking to improve on its 5–15 finish in the Ancient Eight last season. The Bulldogs will begin their quest against Penn (4–9, 0–0), the defending Ivy League champion that qualified for the NCAA Softball Championship last season. The Quakers finished last season at 16–4 in the Ivy League, defeating Yale 7–0 and 9–0 (in six innings).

Earlier this spring, both Yale and Penn traveled to Florida and participated in tournaments hosted by the University of South Florida. The Elis and Quakers faced a similar slate of opponents that included Seton Hall and Butler. Both teams recorded wins against the Seton Hall Pirates, with Yale winning 5–2 and Penn winning 6–0. Against Butler, the Bulldogs pulled out a 4-–2 win while the Quakers fell 3–1.

“The games we have played thus far have been positive in many respects, and we’ve certainly shown that we have all of the pieces necessary to win games in the Ivy [League],” catcher Sarah Onorato ’15 said. “The key now will be to put all of those aspects — the hitting, fielding, and pitching — together, and we should have a lot of success in the conference.”

Penn is buoyed by outfielder Sydney Turchin, who leads the team with a 0.349 batting average for players with more than 20 at-bats, followed closely by pitcher Alexis Sargent, who is batting 0.345. Sargent, who has appeared in seven games on the mound, anchors the Penn pitching staff with a 1.40 earned run average. Pitcher Alexis Borden has shouldered most of the workload for the Quakers’ pitchers, leading the team with seven starts and 43.1 innings pitched.

The Bulldogs then travel to Columbia (9–9, 0–0), a team that finished 8–12 in the conference last season with 2–1 and 7–2 wins over Yale. The Lions finished last season with one of the top pitching staffs in the Ivy League with a team earned run average ranked second to Princeton at 2.76. Columbia’s top pitcher from last year, Emily Kenyon, has returned and currently has a 2.83 earned run average through 29.2 innings pitched. Pitcher Brooke Darling leads the staff with 44.2 innings pitched over nine appearances, though her earned run average is a higher 5.01. Columbia’s lineup is led by infielder Emily Snodgrass, whose 0.385 batting average leads the team for players with more than 40 at-bats.

Yale will look to captain and outfielder Tori Balta ’14, who currently leads the team with a 0.360 batting average, to anchor the offense this weekend.

“We have been preparing and practicing hard all year in preparation for conference play by working hard defensively and offensively,” Balta said. “Additionally, we have worked on executing when called upon in various situations.”

The Elis also hope that defending Ivy League Player of the Year Onorato, currently second on the team with a 0.275 batting average, will regain her form from last year, when she led the league with a 0.430 batting average.

In the circle, the Bulldogs will turn to pitcher Lindsay Efflandt ’17, who leads the staff with a 2.19 earned run average and is second on the team with 32.0 innings pitched. Yale will also rely on pitcher Chelsey Dunham ’14, who has worked 32.2 innings this year with a 4.29 earned run average.

The Bulldogs will hope to snap their six-game losing streak this weekend.