For years, the Yale softball team has raised the bar as it approaches each new season. The team has reached double figures in Ancient Eight victories in two of its last three campaigns, each year giving even more reason to believe that the Bulldogs can potentially vie for one of the two spots in the Ivy League Championship series.

Under the guidance of head coach Jen Goodwin, the Bulldogs have seen a consistent improvement in their overall record in the past eight seasons that she has been with the team. In 2020, although the season was cut short, the Elis posted some strong wins in their preseason classics in Silicon Valley and Virginia.

“It’s been an exciting time to be at Yale over the last several years,” Goodwin said as the 2020 season began in February. “We’ve always had hardworking student-athletes, and with the addition of our two new assistant coaches, the team has shown significant growth. 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 last season — Laura Ricciardone and Rachel Carlson. Both are already working their way into the team’s tight-knit dynamic.

From left to right, Yale softball graduates Giovy Webb ’20, Linsday Kuss ’20, Annie Tarte ’20, Mary Baumann ’20 and Olivia Vinyard ’20. (Photo: Lukas Flippo)

The team is entering the new season with a few bold changes to its playing field — first and second bases were manned by Willa Ferrer ’23 and Carolyn Skotz ’23, two rookies who performed well in the field. Additionally, outfielder Gretchen Bunovsky ’23 made a sizable impact on the team’s game last season.

While previously at shortstop, team captain and now-graduated senior Annie Tarte ’20 was moved to flip on second base and played around the infield in her last season. After serving as a senior captain, Tarte graduated as one of the most experienced players in the Ivy League. She has started over 100 games in her career, including all 83 in each of the two seasons prior to last spring. Last year, she was second on the team with eight stolen bases, third with 20 runs scored and fourth with 39 hits.

“Our team dynamic has improved,” Tarte said about her team’s preparedness for the 2020 season. “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.”

Kortney Ponce ’21, who was named the team’s most valuable player in 2019, will serve as the new captain of the 2020-21 Bulldogs. Ponce shifted to third base and racked up an impressive batting average over nonconference play, starting all games in which she appeared in 2020. Ponce also finished ninth in the Ivy League in 2019 with nine doubles, making her one of the most competitive players to guard the plate in 2021 as she leads the squad. 

The Bulldogs were also led by outfielder Olivia Vinyard ’20, who received several honorable All-Ivy recognitions over her career in the outfield. Outfielder Lindsay Kuss ’20, who missed a portion of her career with an injury, made a strong comeback alongside a position change to the outfield. The outfield was also heavily influenced by experience and leadership of Giovy Webb ’20, who had appeared in 77 games over the three seasons before last spring. Additionally, pitcher Mary Baumann ’20 held her place in the circle, starting in two of the four games in which she pitched in 2020.

Mary Baumann ’20 pitches against Quinnipiac in 2019. (Photo:

“I’m so grateful for the amazing people at Yale and all the memories that I made with my teammates.” Baumann said in a Senior Spotlight published by the Athletic Department. “Yale is my second home and it has taught me so much in so many different ways in the last four years.”

Yale returns several impressive players who have a few more chances to make an impact on the team in 2021, including rising junior Nicole Conway ’22 on the pitching lineup. In the circle, Conway led the pitchers in 2019 with a 2.97 ERA. She struck out 56 hitters over the course of the season as a first year and only improved in 2020, posting a 2.44 ERA and racking up 33 strikeouts before the season was cut short to put her on track to best her first-year mark.

Even without the leadership and expertise of their 2020 class to guide them, the Bulldogs expect to hit next season with the same momentum.

“Just live in the moment,” Tarte said in a statement to the team’s underclassmen in her Senior Spotlight from the Athletic Department. “You won’t live every second of your softball and/or Yale career, and that’s okay. It’s hard work, and sometimes you get defeated- you shouldn’t love every second of it. But embrace it and live in the moment.”

Andrew Bellah |