Courtesy of Yale Athletics

The Yale softball team will not be losing any players this spring with the graduating class of 2021. The original senior class consisted of catcher and first baseman Sydney Grobman ’22, pitcher Miranda Papes ’22 and infielder Kortney Ponce ’22. All three, as implied by their new class year, decided to take a gap year for the 2020-21 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although taking time off was a difficult decision, all three players expressed their excitement for being able to play another year of softball and felt like they had been productive during their time away from school.

“The three of us have gone through a lot together,” Grobman said. “We are like sisters. We have been together since the beginning, and it’s been a tough ride for the three of us as a group, so I think it means a lot to us, this last season, being able to play together.”

Last fall, the News found that 40.2 percent of returning student-athletes took fall term leaves of absence. Of all teams, softball had the highest proportion of athletes who took a leave: 75 percent. And taking the full year off would guarantee softball players another year of athletic eligibility.

Ponce told the News that she considered potentially taking only a semester off or even returning to school last fall.

“There were a lot of pieces to the puzzle that just took some time to put together,” Ponce said. Had she taken online classes this spring, she would have used up her final year of undergraduate Ivy League eligibility. After consulting friends, teammates, family and coaches, Ponce realized that she “wasn’t really ready to be done with softball.”

Papes felt a similar sentiment when deciding whether or not to take time away from Yale.

“Taking a gap year was definitely the best decision for me because I really wanted to finish out my career playing a [full] season and hopefully have somewhat of a normal season this coming year,” she said.

Though all three players are not enrolled, they said they have still been able to grow academically during their year away from Yale.

Courtesy of Yale Athletics

Grobman and Ponce are both looking forward to attending medical school after graduation. Both had planned on taking a year off of school to study and pursue other experiences before applying, but they are taking that gap year now instead.

“I’m just working, playing softball and having lots of family time,” Grobman told the News. “I work as a medical scribe and a medical assistant at an infectious disease private practice in Del Ray. … Aside from that, I am preparing for my MCAT which I’m taking in June.”

Ponce has been working through Yale Student Employment as a research assistant for pediatric care. She told the News that her gap year has been “rewarding” and has given her time to reflect on what she wants to do after graduation.

Papes, meanwhile, has her eyes set on law school.

“Most of my time during the last couple of months has been spent studying for my LSAT, which I ended up finishing this February,” she told the News. “And I am also a double major in history and psychology so I’m doing two theses next year, so I have been trying to catch up on research for those and get most of them done before classes roll around again.”

In terms of softball, all three have made conscious attempts to stay in game shape.

Grobman is currently living at home in Florida with her sister, Julia Grobman ’24, who is also on the softball team.

“The weather is perfect. We have access to fields at all times,” she said. “[Julia] is currently working with some younger girls giving pitching lessons and I go out there and meet her every day. So we have a little routine together where we go out to the field every day, have fun, blast music and just pitch and hit together.”

Papes and Ponce, meanwhile, are living together in New Haven. But given NCAA and Ivy League regulations, they are unable to take part in official organized team activities due to their unenrolled status. Ponce said that they have only really been able to gather with other teammates who are also on leaves of absence.

“Since I’ve been in New Haven, having teammates here, we go out, play catch,” Ponce said. “Everyone has been making do with what they have access to and keeping our arms warm and our swings fresh.”  

“Just staying physically and mentally in shape for the season has been the priority right now,” Papes added.

Still, all three expressed eagerness to get back next year.

Yale softball head coach Jen Goodwin also anticipates the return of this class.

“The fact that we have these three for another year, is just [exciting], for leadership, first and foremost, but also for the ability to contribute on the field. … It’s a gift,” Goodwin told the News.

Ponce believes that the team will be “stacked with some really competitive players” next year and that she is “excited to see what our team can do in the Ivy League and win an Ivy League championship.”

Yale had not yet started conference play in softball when their season was canceled last year.

Nader Granmayeh | nader.granmayeh@yale.edu