Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ivy League Conference Forecast

A conference made up of schools that, historically, produce graduates and alumni who are among the nation's elite in their chosen field. Nestled in the Northeastern geographical region of the nation, eight teams make up the Ivy League and all eight sponsor the sport of varsity softball.

The winners of the North and South Divisions face off in a best-of-three series at the regular season's end to determine the conference champion. The winner of that series is crowned the champion and advances via the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA field of sixty-four. The best-of-three series is played over the course of two days at the home of the divisional champion with the best conference record, to that point.

Team that could improve and surprise: Harvard Crimson
     (The Crimson topped their division of the Ivy League in 2016, but fell short of the NCAA postseason with a somewhat-disappointing finish in the conference tournament. For Jenny Allard’s squad, though, the time very well may be now for their success to peak. Despite the loss of all-conference hurler Morgan Groom, the Crimson return Taylor Cabe in the circle, who amassed a still-respectable 3.12 ERA in just over 105 innings of work. She averaged almost five strikeouts per seven innings and finished with a 15-3 record. Allard’s club returns budding star Maddy Kaplan, as well as reigning Freshman of the Year Rhianna Rich at the plate, both of whom should make a huge impact both on their squad and on the Ivy League as a whole. This may just be the Crimson’s Year.)

Team that could decline and disappoint: Dartmouth Big Green
     (Graduated infielder Katie McEachern was a huge catalyst for the Big Green throughout her career, and 2016 was a fine example of that. McEachern led her team in batting average by nearly seventy points; quadrupled the home run total of her nearest teammate and hit nearly ½ of the team’s long balls through the course of the year. Seniors always graduate, but McEachern will be especially hard for Shannon Doepking’s squad to replace in the Tennessee alum’s second year at the program’s helm. Morgan McCalmon said “sayonara” after her career in the circle finished following last year, leaving the Big Green with another large hole to fill in the lineup. Though the Big Green seem to be perennial contenders, don’t expect too much from them this season, as they seek to replace such big, longstanding pieces in their pitching staff and batting order.)

Player of the Year: Maddy Kaplan, Harvard
Pitcher of the Year: Lindsay Efflandt, Yale
Coach of the Year: Jenny Allard, Harvard

Conference Champs: Harvard Crimson
Top WCWS Contender: Harvard Crimson

Players to Watch:
--> Maddy Kaplan, Harvard – An all-conference and all-region first-team member, Kaplan’s .472 batting average nearly set her program’s single-season mark. Having repeated the respective first-team honors two years running, this may be the year Kaplan really breaks out and makes a name for herself on a national stage. Kaplan’s line of .472/.529/.634 each led her program, none of them by fewer than sixty-five points and by more than 120 points in on-base percentage. Expect to hear her name more than a couple of times in 2017.

--> Lindsay Efflandt, Yale – While the Bulldogs may not be the league’s best, Efflandt is a solid hurler and an effective artist in the circle for her club. Though her season’s ERA mark was just a nick over the 3.00 line, Efflandt pitched to the tune of a 1.77 Earned Run Average in league play and recorded five victories in fifteen conference appearances. She brought her ERA down by more than 2.5 points from the previous season and doubled her personal win total from the previous year.

--> Kaylee Grant, Princeton – Grant earned all-conference honors as a freshman, joining the Ivy’s first-team in her own first season. She led her team in five different statistical categories, including batting average (.326) and runs scored (26) and tying for the team lead in home runs with seven. With a year under her belt, especially one that ended on such a high note, Grant’s name should be on the all-conference list once again after this season and one should not be surprised to hear her name mentioned in some premature Player of the Year contention conversations.

Biggest Questions:
Can Princeton hold down the repeat?

Top Seniors:
P – Alexis Sargent, Penn; Taylor Cabe, Harvard; Lindsay Efflandt, Yale
 C – Julia Schoenwald, Brown
IF – Giana Panariello, Harvard; Maddie Damore, Dartmouth; Christina Andrews, Brown; Kerry Cook, Columbia
OF – Sarah Syrop, Brown; Leah Allen, Penn
UT/DP – Karen Chaw, Dartmouth

Conference Projection:
North Division:
1. Harvard Crimson
2. Yale Bulldogs
3. Dartmouth Big Green
4. Brown Bears
South Division:
1. Princeton Tigers
2. Penn Quakers
3. Columbia Lions

4. Cornell Big Red

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