Courtesy of Yale Athletics

For the first time since 2019, the Yale softball team will play an Ivy League opponent when the Bulldogs host rival Harvard this weekend. Only three players on the Eli roster have experienced conference play in their collegiate careers.

Yale (2–8, 0–0 Ivy) enters the weekend coming off a winless trip to Arizona. Harvard (6–10, 0–0 Ivy) has had some more success early in the season. The Crimson were selected third in the Ivy League pre-season poll but received the most first place votes of any team.

“These past two weeks have allowed us to really establish who we are as a team,” outfielder Katie Donahey ’25 said. “Everytime you step on the field you learn something; the goal is to improve each time. Considering the circumstances and playing the competition we have these past two weeks, I was thoroughly impressed by our energy and grit through it all. We feel very excited and optimistic going into Ivy League play.”

Harvard is riding a three-game losing streak and have dropped five of their last six games. The Bulldogs and Crimson have played only one common opponent: Marist (9–12, 0–0 MAAC). Harvard split their series with the Red Foxes while the Elis were swept.

The Crimson have been led by junior catcher Megan Welsh. The Indiana native has 14 hits in 12 games including three doubles and three RBIs. Senior infielder Morgan Melito has also had a hot start at the plate, knocking in 10 RBIs and launching two home runs.

As far as pitching, the Elis will likely face sophomore Anna Reed during their three game series. The California native leads the Crimson in innings pitched, but has allowed a 4.59 earned run average and 15 walks. Harvard has only recorded one shutout in the 16 games it has played. The 3–0 victory over North Dakota (8–16, 0–0 Summit) was Reed’s best start of the season, and she pitched a complete game shutout and only conceded two hits. The Fighting Hawks have struggled this year but recently beat Ivy League favorite Columbia.

“Going into this weekend I feel very confident,” pitcher Nicole Conway ’23 said. “We go to these tournaments to challenge ourselves and play good teams, and I think we did both of those things. We learned a lot about what we are capable of and are all very motivated to work hard this week to be ready for Harvard. It is a big weekend to start and I believe we are up to the challenge.”

For the Bulldogs, the story of the season thus far has been their youth. Yale’s roster only features three upperclassmen — Conway, pitcher Miranda Papes ’22 and captain infielder Kortney Ponce ’22. The team’s captain has yet to appear in a game this season as she recovers from an injury. A number of players who have spoken to the News have emphasized the leadership role that Ponce has played despite being sidelined. 

Thus far, with the support of the team’s veterans and coaching staff, Yale’s young players have been up to the challenge. 

“I think because we have such a young roster, we have definitely learned that we are going to need all hands on deck, especially going into Ivy season,” catcher Sam Goodcase ’24 said. “I think the upperclassmen have had a unique task of preparing this team for this upcoming 2022 season.”

Goodcase leads the team in batting average among qualified players at .400, over 100 points better than any other player on the team. She has started every game this season and has scored five runs.

Last weekend’s trip to Arizona produced mixed results for the Bulldogs. The Elis failed to record a win, but played No. 8 Arizona close and scored six runs against Marist.

Yale won the last matchup between these teams 7–5 on April 28, 2019 in Cambridge.

Nader Granmayeh '23 is a former staff writer who covered football and softball for the Yale Daily News.