After spending Spring Break playing 16 games to open up its season in the Florida heat, the softball team now stands at 9-6-1 as it heads into NESCAC play. This weekend, the Polar Bears have three contests at three-time defending national champions Tufts (7-6).

The Polar Bears won their first two games of the season against Plymouth State and McDaniel College but then lost three of their next four over the next two days. Emily Griffin ’17, Samantha Roy ’19 and Julia Geaumont ’16 all pitched well during the four-game stint—the only game in which one of the pitchers gave up more than four runs was in an 11-5 blowout win against Western New England University—but the team was having trouble putting runs on the board.

Back-to-back wins against Salve Regina and Benedictine the next day helped the Polar Bears turn their play around for the remainder of the Florida trip. Against Benedictine, the team got off to a slow start, giving up five runs in the second inning, but their bats eventually came alive, scoring six runs in the bottom half of that inning. Jordan Gowdy ’18 knocked in Samantha Valdivia ’19 for an insurance run in the third, enough for Griffin to finish out the game on the mound for a 7-6 win.

According to Head Coach Ryan Sullivan, the team’s mediocre start was in part due to the delay the Maine winter imposed on the team’s season.  

“We go down midweek, and other teams are already six or eight games into the season,” said Sullivan. “You’re kind of getting the kinks out, and they’ve already gotten those out, but we were able to rebound from that and play much better at the back of the trip.”

“[The Benedictine game] was a nice tipping point. It was about midway through the trip. It was kind of a place where we could say, ‘Yes, we are a good team. We can do this.’ Because we started off slowly, there’s a little bit of indecision there and unknown, but we were able to rally together and pull that one out,” he added.

The team finished out the trip 4-3-1 after the Benedictine game. Although its record may not be where the team would like it to be, improved play against tougher competition at the end of the trip has the Polar Bears feeling hopeful looking forward.

“It’s not the best we have done in Florida. Typically we get to at least 10 wins, but this is probably the hardest competition that we have had so far, at least in my four years,” said captain Katie Gately ’16.

As the Polar Bears head into NESCAC play, they will have to improve their defense, which at times let down the impressive pitching performances from Griffin and Geaumont. Fourteen of the 25 runs Griffin gave up in Florida were unearned.

“As you get into conference play, it’s a whole different animal in and of itself too, and you know the other pitchers, and they know you,” said Sullivan. “For us, it’s just keeping ourselves emotionally stable and consistent in our play and making sure that we’re really focused on us and not the other teams that we play.”

This weekend’s games against Tufts will likely be especially tough. Although the Jumbos no longer have Allyson Fournier ’15, a four-time All-American pitcher who graduated last spring, they are still the defending national champions and the team to beat.

Still, Sullivan is confident that the team can compete with anyone.

“I really like where we are leaving Florida. I think we’re in a position where we can confidently go play anybody and feel pretty good about our chances to win that game,” he said.