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The women high-five Syracuse players after their game on Saturday in Houston, TX.

Photo courtesy of Michael Sudhalter / GoPrincetonTigers

Princeton softball’s opening weekend was one of hurdles and hiccups — due to several cases of norovirus on the team, they did not play two out of the five scheduled games at Houston, and the illness weakened their performances in the other three. However, despite the adversity, the team fought back — “[They] were absolute warriors,” said head coach Lisa Van Ackeren.

“Our team is tough. We were hit with the norovirus and a couple cases of food poisoning and weren’t even close to full strength to compete for our games on Friday. Luckily, we were able to contain the virus and got a couple of our players healthy and in form for Saturday and Sunday.” Van Ackeren sees this as she sees every trial and tribulation: as a learning curve. “They were tough, grounded, and had each other’s backs. It’s exactly what we expect of them when difficult things come up throughout our season.”

The opening day of the tournament for the team saw them split a pair of games, winning against Syracuse 6–4 and losing to Houston 1–11.

In the Tigers’ first game of the weekend, Syracuse scored two runs from a homer before Princeton equalized by the end the inning, with senior Megan Donahey’s single, first-year Ashley McDonald’s reaching third base and Donaey’s run, and junior Mackenzie Meyer’s groundout allowing McDonald to score. When Syracuse attempted to fight back, sophomore Ali Blanchard’s home run and a two-run double from sophomore Madison Hamilton drove in base hits from senior Alex Colón and first-year Lauren Murphy to give Princeton the lead, and after first-year pitcher Alexis Laudenslager kept Syracuse scoreless in the seventh, the win.

The Tigers had less luck against Houston. The game was scoreless into the third inning before Houston came up with three runs on a pair of homers. Once Princeton got on the board in the sixth inning, with first-year Caitlin Bish’s run following senior Allison Harvey’s leadoff double, three runs followed by another three-run homer for the Cougars quickly ended the game.

The women also suffered a loss on the second day with Louisiana Tech defeating the Tigers 6–3. Although the Bulldogs scored first with a two-run homer, Princeton brought one back in the bottom of the second when first-year Adrienne Chang hit a run-scoring single after Meyer’s double. Despite Harvey hitting another run-scoring single after Hamilton’s base hit, the Bulldogs got the two-run lead back in the top of the fourth and wasted no time widening the gap to 6–2 in the fifth, inevitably securing the win for themselves despite Chang’s run in the sixth.

Van Ackeren said of the performance: “Our first-years showed up in a big way; they looked really grounded against some great teams and got a lot of game experience. We will continue to get better in key moments in close games to help shift momentum in our direction and produce more runs.” The ramifications of Houston are clear — “The first weekend is about finding out who we are and what we have, and we feel like we were able to do that this weekend.”

The team is headed to Washington, D.C. next weekend to attend the George Washington Tournament against Georgetown, Towson, Morgan State, and their host, the George Washington Colonials. The Tigers play Georgetown and Towson on Feb. 28, Morgan State and George Washington on Feb. 29, and finish up the weekend with one final match against Morgan State on March 1.

“We can’t wait to play again, hopefully at full strength this weekend,” said Van Ackeren. “George Washington is a great complex to play in, and we’ll have a great group of fans and parents there to play in front of. It's energizing for us when we’re on the road, and we look forward to showing up a better team than we were this past weekend. If we keep growing, getting 1 percent better each day — over the course of the season, that adds up.”

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