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Each year, the Yale softball team has been raising the bar for how it approaches the season. The team has reached double figures in Ancient Eight victories in two of its last three campaigns, giving even more reason to believe that the Bulldogs can potentially vie for one of the two spots in the Ivy League Championship series this spring.

Under the guidance of head coach Jeanette Goodwin, the Bulldogs have seen a consistent improvement in their overall record in the past eight seasons that she has been with the team.

“It’s been an exciting time to be at Yale over the last several years,” Goodwin said. “We’ve always had hardworking student-athletes, and each year we raise the bar with how we approach the season. With some of the facility upgrades we’ve had through generous donations of our alums, it’s allowed us to train more intentionally, and essentially the team is more prepared.”

In addition to improvements in facilities and resources, the team announced the inclusion of two new assistant coaches — Laura Ricciardone and Rachel Carlson.

Ricciardone, a former pitcher and team captain at Harvard, was previously an assistant coach at the University of South Florida, where she helped in leading the team to two back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances.

Carlson finished an outstanding playing career at the University of Maine in 2018 and, after receiving a M.S. in exercise science from South Florida, will be joining the Bulldogs’ coaching team for the 2020 season. During her tenure at Maine, Carlson showed extreme promise as a two-time All-America East selection and as a team captain.

“With the addition of our two new assistant coaches, the team has shown significant growth,” Goodwin said. “Laura Ricciardone has brought a new approach to our pitching staff as well as our infield defense, to which the team has responded tremendously. Rachel Carlson is an experienced outfielder and slapper and has dynamic drills and has challenged our student-athletes to push their boundaries and to be more aggressive overall.”

The team is entering the new season with a few bold changes to its playing field — first and second bases will be manned by Willa Ferrer ’23 and Carolyn Skotz ’23. Ferrer played previously for Fieldston High School in New York City and was named Bronx Softball Player of the Year in 2017. Likewise, Skotz also brings an impressive resume to the field from her time at Presentation High School in San Jose, California, where she was selected three times for the All-West Catholic Athletic League first team. Ferrer hit a 0.622 with 15 home runs, 105 hits and 80 RBI in high school. Skotz hit 0.424 with 39 hits, four home runs and 24 RBI.

While previously on shortstop, team captain Annie Tarte ’20 will be moved to flip on second base. As a senior captain, Tarte is one of the most experienced players in the Ivy League. She has started 109 games in her career, including all 83 in each of the last two seasons. Last year, she was second on the team in stolen bases (eight), third in runs scored (20) and fourth in hits (39).

“We are all optimistic and fired up heading into our first weekend of games,” Tarte said. “Our team dynamic has improved, communication has improved, and we are fired up across the board. We are training more strategically and effectively than we have worked in the past. We are better prepared for this upcoming season than we have been as a team in my last three years. We’re on the hunt for those Ivy Rings.”

The changes in position are part of a larger effort to reprogram the team’s defensive game and to improve the speed and strategic capacity of the infield to execute sharp and precise plays.

Kortney Ponce ’21, who was named the team’s most valuable player last year, has shifted to third base. Ponce started all 28 games she appeared in last year and finished ninth in the Ivy League with nine doubles. In addition, she was second on the team with a 0.337 batting average and 21 RBI. The remainder of the infield will be manned by Sydney Grobman ’21, who will be making appearances on first base as well as behind the plate and new catcher Sam Goodcase ’23.

The Bulldogs are matching this infield shuffle with an experienced outfield led by Olivia Vinyard ’20, who received an honorable All-Ivy recognition last year when she tied for 10th place in the league with 44 hits. Lindsay Kuss ’20, who missed most of last season with an injury, will join the outfield after three years in the infield. Maya Seifert ’22 and Olivia Sardoff ’22 appeared in 15 and 25 games last season, respectively, and will take another season in the outfield alongside the addition of Gretchen Bunovsky ’23. Starting in all four years during her time at Masuk High School in Monroe, Connecticut, Bunovsky maintained a 0.439 career batting average along with 96 RBI and 137 hits for 122 runs.

The outfield will also be heavily influenced by the incredibly extensive experience of Giovy Webb ’20, who played as a part of the Peruvian National softball team in January 2019 and participated in the 2019 European International Tournament in Spain, the 2019 USA Softball International Cup in Georgia, the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru and the WBSC Americas Olympic Qualifier in British Columbia. At Yale, she has appeared in 77 games over the last three seasons.

“This season we’ll be especially strong since the upperclassmen have had a chance to develop their skills in the off-season, and we have a very talented first-year class,” Webb said. “We’ve implemented a lot of new defensive strategies on the field introduced by our new coaching staff.”

In the circle, Nic Conway ’22 led the pitching team last season with 2.97 ERA and pitched 56 strikeouts over the course of the season, incredibly impressive for a rookie. Her pitching record was followed by Miranda Papes ’21 with a 2.79 ERA and Mary Baumann ’20. Julia Grobman ’23 joined the pitching crew after a successful stint at American Heritage School in Plantation, Florida, where she pitched 123 strikeouts.

The season kicks off this weekend with the Bulldogs leaving New Haven to travel to Northern California — there, the team will compete in the annual Silicon Valley Classic, a state tournament co-hosted by Santa Clara University and San José State University.

The Bulldogs play Canisius College and Santa Clara on Friday at Santa Clara’s stadium. The ladies will then travel to San José State’s stadium, where they will play on Saturday against Colorado State University followed by a game against San José State. The Bulldogs will wrap up the tournament on Sunday with a game against California Baptist University.

“We are excited to get to the west coast and play against a different team,” Goodwin said. “We have the talent and ability to compete at the next level, and I do believe we are ready. We will use it as a time to learn as much as we can about our team so we can continue to grow.”

San Jose, CA is the hometown of first year Skotz.

 

Andrew Bellah | bellah.bellah@yale.edu