At the beginning of the season, the Princeton women’s softball team identified its major goal as defending the Ivy League title and winning at least once in the NCAA tournament. Princeton will have the chance to secure one of those objectives this weekend, as they face Harvard in the Ivy League Championship Series for the second consecutive year with the conference title and an NCAA tournament bid on the line. Though playing this season’s series in the friendly confines of Class of 1895 Field, the Tigers will hope for a repeat of last year’s outcome, in which they defeated Harvard in two out of three games.
In this past weekend’s four-game series against Cornell, Princeton secured the best regular season record and home field advantage for the championship series, an accomplishment that Head Coach Lisa Van Ackeren identified as an important achievement. “That was a next step for them, particularly for the senior class,” she said. “They identified early that they wanted to host.”
Despite clinching the Ivy League regular season title, Princeton endured a somewhat up-and-down weekend of games, winning twice by scores of 1-0 and 5-0 and losing twice by scores of 9-7 and 3-0. Van Ackeren conceded that her team, having secured home field advantage after Saturday’s opening matchup, struggled to maintain the same sense of purpose. “I think subconsciously for them, there were some innings with a lack of focus, which just kind of happens naturally without a tangible goal in mind,” she said. However, she credited their ability to regain their focus with playing with the quality necessary to win games. Particularly impressive were pitchers senior Claire Klausner, who held Cornell scoreless through eight innings in Saturday’s victory, and junior Ashley LaGuardia, who followed suit on Sunday for six innings.
The high stakes of this weekend’s series will elevate the usual intensity of the Princeton-Harvard rivalry to an even greater degree. Harvard, which enters the weekend hot after having swept Dartmouth in a four-game series to punch its ticket to the championship series, will certainly not roll over for the team at the top of the regular season standings. Considering the emotion surrounding the series, Van Ackeren emphasized the need for her team to continue to play with consistency and “execute (their) game-plan in a high intensity series.”
The games will take place at the Class of 1895 Field beginning with a doubleheader at 1 p.m. Saturday. Game three, if necessary, will take place at 1 p.m. the following day.
Facing a talented Harvard team thirsting for vengeance, Princeton is unlikely to become complacent in its most important weekend of the season. However, between their accomplishments, ability and the advantage of playing in front of a raucous home crowd, the team has much to be confident about.