PHILADELPHIA – In what has become a great Red and Blue tradition, the University of Pennsylvania softball team will begin its season with a 10-game stretch in Florida. The Quakers start their first road trip of 2016 on Friday morning, competing in the Under Armour Invitational at the University of South Florida.
The Under Armour Invite will feature a jam-packed weekend of games, kicking off with matchups against St. Bonaventure (9:15 a.m.) and Providence (11:30 a.m.) on Friday. The Quakers will then take on Texas State and Illinois on Saturday, followed by a contest versus Detroit on Sunday.
After an off day on Monday, Penn will return to action for a doubleheader against Maine on Tuesday (3/8). The Quakers will wrap up the trip down South with tilts versus Butler and Northern Kentucky on Wednesday (3/9), and a final seven innings against North Florida on Thursday (3/10).
To stay up to date with all the happenings from the Sunshine State, be sure to follow @Penn_Softball on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
The Quakers, who are coming off their fourth-straight Ivy League South Division crown, will return many key components to a team that went 13-7 in the conference last season. Led by Head Coach Leslie King, Penn has notched at least 13 Ivy wins in each of the last four seasons.
The Red and Blue return eight players who saw action in last year’s Ivy League Championship Series against Dartmouth. Most notably, four members of the Red and Blue were named to the CollegeSportsMadness Preseason All-Ivy squads -- led by first-teamers Jurie Joyner and Lauren Li. Senior Korinne Raby and junior Leah Allen were recognized as second-team selections.
Joyner, the 2015 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, led the conference with 33 runs batted in and hit a team-best .387. She also launched six home runs, and slugged .655. Li, a team captain for the second-consecutive season, is one of the most versatile players in the Ancient Eight. She started 30 games in the infield last season, logging innings at third base, shortstop and second. Additionally, she went 6-2 in nine starts in the circle.
Raby appeared in 35 games as a junior, 32 of which were starts behind the dish. The sure-handed catcher batted .276 with six doubles and 15 RBI. Allen is coming off a season in which she was named second-team All-Ivy. The 2014 Rookie of the Year was the only Quaker to start all 42 games a year ago, 41 of which were in right field.
Other returners set to play big roles for Penn include the Quakers’ second captain, Kanani Datan, as well as junior Alexis Sargent. Sargent should take a larger role in the circle, helping to fill a void left by the departed Alexis Borden. Borden graduated from Penn as one of the most prolific pitchers in program history. She finished her career as one of just six players in the conference record books with more than 600 career strikeouts (643), while also setting the Quaker’s all-time win mark at 64.
Datan started 32 games last season, providing a reliable defensive presence in center field. She did not record a single error in 2015, and has only five to her name in 98 career games.
Coach King added six freshmen to the 2016 roster, in the form of Alexis Corini, Sarah Cwiertnia, Jessica England, Hannah Gibbons, Joy Lewis, and Sam Pederson.
The Quakers own the last two Ivy League Rookie of the Year winners, as Joyner claimed the honor last season and Allen the year prior.
The Quakers will begin a string of three-straight home doubleheaders on March 16. Lafayette will be first, followed by tussles with Army West Point (3/19) and La Salle (3/23).