Softball’s journey to the NESCAC Championship

The Tufts softball team plays Colby on April 10. Sophie Dolan / The Tufts Daily

From a canceled season in 2020 to a condensed schedule in 2021, to qualifying for the NESCAC Championship, Tufts softball has endured and finally become the zenith of NESCAC sports. On May 9, Tufts will play Williams College for the NESCAC title. Williams held an undefeated 12–0 record during the regular season, while Tufts ended at 15–3 with losses to Middlebury, Bowdoin and Brandeis

The bout will come down to strength against strength. The Jumbos have an incredible group of pitchers, while the Williams Ephs excel at the plate. The Jumbos pitching has been top-notch all season, with first-year Sophia DiCocco’s ERA at .88 and senior Kristina Haghdan’s ERA at 1.24. They led the league in ERA for the regular season. Haghdan also led the NESCAC in both opposing batting average at .156 and strikeouts with 66. While Williams is not too shabby on that front either, their real strength is hitting, with two players in the top 15 in the NESCAC in batting average. If Tufts clicks on all cylinders, they’re tough to beat, but slow starts have been common all season and that should worry anyone sporting an elephant on their hat. 

The Jumbos have also had some trouble with depth in their pitching rotation. After Haghdan and DiCocco, it’s not clear who can come in and fill the Mariano Rivera bullpen/closing role. Senior Kristi Van Meter has picked up her play in recent weeks, but she still hasn’t reached her usual form. She might be the X-factor. If Tufts has a three deep pitching rotation, it will be difficult for Williams to get on base — especially considering the defensive prowess of players like senior second basemen Emma Della Volpe, the graduate student at first, Casey Maggiorie, and sophomore catcher Josie Steinberg.  

Williams, meanwhile, is looking to avenge their 2019 NESCAC Championship loss to Tufts, during which the Jumbos secured their 11th NESCAC title in a 3–2 win. Williams ranks second to Tufts all-time in championships with six.

In such an unusual year, when sports often seemed like the last matter on people’s minds, a winning season for Tufts softball has made up for some of the lost experiences. Over the course of my interviews this season, I asked players about the character of this team that has clearly been through an abnormal amount of uncertainty and adversity. Here are some of their responses: 

“We all love each other, and I love it. I’m actually really grateful that this team is my senior year team,” Haghdan said.

“I think that everyone gets along and really loves and supports each other, more so than pretty much any team I’ve ever been on,” Della Volpe said.

“I feel like we’re kind of underdogs,” sophomore Michelle Adelman said. “I also think we’re really gritty, we work really hard and that’s like my favorite part about the team like we just work really well together.” 

“Our team has shown a lot of grit and a lot of heart and there’s not much that can happen to bring us down,” Steinberg said.

Finally, I asked a newcomer, Sophia DiCocco, about joining the Tufts softball community and the relationships she formed along the way.  

“Our team is really a community, and everyone gets along and it’s perfect chemistry,” DiCocco said.

On the confidence of the team going into the championship, DiCocco has learned from her elders about what it takes to win.

“I feel like it’s going to be a close game, and everyone is going to have to bring their all,” DiCocco said. “It can’t be an off day. If it’s an off day we are not winning but I think we really want it and we’ve worked so hard. We didn’t come to this point just to lose.”