PHILADELPHIA - Optimism is high surrounding the softball team coming into the 2011 campaign. The Quakers will return seven players who started 30 or more games a season ago from a team that finished 12-8 in Ivy League play. This year's team is getting ready for the Ivy League Season by once again heading to the Rebel Spring Games in Kissimmee, Florida. The Quakers will play 10 games over the span of six days. Penn will see their first live action of the spring season starting Sunday, March 6 when they take on Western Kentucky at 3 p.m. and Bryant at 5 p.m. They will conclude their spring break schedule on Friday, March 11 with games against Loyola at 1 p.m. and Valparaiso at 3 p.m.
The Quakers return a wealth of talent this season. Penn has four players returning that earned All-Ivy recognition a season ago. Alisha Prystowsky earned the highest individual honors amongst her returning teammates with her second-team All-Ivy nomination. Prystowsky is coming off of a season in which she was the only Quaker to play in and start all 42 games. During those 42 games, Prystowsky hit .333 with five home runs and 26 RBI's. She also led the team in runs with 25 and walks with 22. She also led the team with an OBP of .481.
In addition to Prystowksy, Penn returns a trio of players who earned All-Ivy Honorable Mention. Justine Payne saw action in 37 games, starting 33, for Penn a year ago. She batted .306 with 23 RBI's and was second on the team in steals with five. She also tied for the team-high in home runs with six. The other Quaker to hit six home runs a year ago was Brooke Coloma, who started 41 games for Penn on her way to earning the honorable mention honors. She batted .317 while also leading team in RBI's with 19. The final All-Ivy Honorable Mention returning player is Stephanie Caso. Caso was second on the team in batting a year ago, hitting .336 with a team-high 44 hits. She also had an OBP of .416.
Three other starters for Penn also return to this year's squad. Kelsey Wolfe played in 38 games, starting 35, while getting on base at a .336 clip. She also scored 11 runs while batting in 13 a season ago. Jessica Arneson saw action in 31 games, while starting in 30 of those contests. She had an OBP of .314 to go along with 12 walks, seven runs, and nine RBI's. The final returning starter from a year ago is Jessica Melendez, who also played for the Puerto Rican National Team during the Caribbean Games this past summer, helping her team to a fourth-place finish. She started 30 games for Penn, and recorded 14 hits to go along with her seven runs.
With plenty of depth on the 22-player roster, the Quakers will rely on both newcomers and returning players to fill the voids in the lineup left by graduation. Penn also returns two pitchers with significant experience from a season ago. Taylor Tieman pitched in 20 games, starting 11, and was second on the team in total innings with 81. She posted a 7-7 record with an ERA of 4.81. She also tied for the team lead in complete games with eight. Tieman picked up the only save for Penn a year ago.
Cailyn Hennessy also returns after pitching in 20 games last year. She started eight games and went 5-5 for the year with three complete games with an ERA of 4.14.
Home field advantage was definitely a factor for Penn as it went 12-7 on its own field. At the Rebel Spring Games a season ago, Penn went just 2-5 in the neutral site games. The team will once again meet up with three teams who it saw last season during the spring break. All three of these impending rematches were tight last year. In those games, the Quakers defeated Bryant 3-2, while falling to Detroit Mercy 8-6, and Wagner 6-5.
The Quakers schedule for the spring break trip opens up on Sunday. The Quakers will also play two games on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. They have a built in day off on Wednesday. Be sure to check back every night for recaps on each day's action. A complete schedule of all the Quaker's games in Florida is available on the Rebel Spring Games Website. Live Stats will also be available for each of the games.