April 26, 2017

Senior Reynolds Saving Her Best for Last, Helping PU Softball Earn Ivy South Title

REYNOLDS RAP: Princeton University softball star Marissa Reynolds takes a cut in recent action. Last weekend, senior star Reynolds helped Princeton go 3-1 against Columbia as the Tigers clinched the Ivy League South Division title. The Tigers, now 21-16 overall and 13-3 Ivy, end regular season play by facing Cornell in doubleheaders on April 29 and April 30, with the first twinbill taking place in Princeton and the second in Ithaca, N.Y. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into her senior season on the Princeton University softball team, Marissa Reynolds was determined to be less fidgety when she was at bat.

“I just wanted to take a calmer approach at the plate, sticking to my game plan, seeing the ball in as deep as possible and trusting my timing,” said the 5’7 outfielder Reynolds, a native of Chehalis, Wash.

After hitting .262 in both her sophomore and junior seasons, Reynolds has blossomed this spring into one of the top sluggers in the Ivy League with a batting average of .456 and six homers and 20 RBIs in 35 games.

“Right before spring break I was working with coach (Christie) Novatin,” said Reynolds.

“I am staying more still in the box than in the past. I have always felt like I needed to move more to get more power. I have realized that I can still have the same amount of power by just sitting back and being calm. That is what has made the biggest difference.”

Displaying that calm approach last weekend, Reynolds went 5-for-11 with three runs, two RBIs, and a homer as Princeton won three out of four games against Columbia, clinching the Ivy South title in the process, improving to 21-16 overall and 13-3 Ivy.

“I think that this team really deserves to compete for the Ivy League championship,” said Reynolds reflecting on the title, the second straight division crown for the Tigers who went on to win the Ivy League Championship Series (ILCS) in 2016.

“Last year we had a really good team but I think this team has something special. I am excited to see how we play.”

Reynolds is excited by the strides the Princeton program has taken over the last four years.

“Our team has come a long way since I have been here, the expectations are a lot different now,” said Reynolds.

“We expect to win every Ivy League game that we play and that wasn’t the case when I came in as a freshman or even in my sophomore year. That comes with winning the Ivy League championship and then also this year having freshmen who stepped up. It has been a cool experience to be with a team that has grown so much since I have been here.”

In Reynolds’ view, the Tigers have a lot going for them as they shoot a second straight league title.

“We have a lot of depth on this team, one through nine anyone can come up and change the game,” said Reynolds.

“We have a lot of depth with our pitching staff. I think we have more depth than any of the other Ivy League teams so that is what I think we have a good shot at the championship.”

The team’s senior class, which includes Claire Klausner, Erica Nori, Haley Hineman, and Kelsey Smith in addition to Reynolds, is hoping to get another weekend on their Class of 1895 Field as Princeton is currently in position to earn home field advantage for the ILCS, having posted a better league record than Ivy North leader Dartmouth (11-24-1 overall, 10-6 Ivy).

No matter what happens, Reynolds will be happy to be on the diamond with her classmates.

“It has been a cool journey with this group,” said Reynolds. “I would not have wanted it with any other group of girls.”

Princeton head coach Lisa Van Ackeren is proud of what her seniors have already accomplished.

“They are a really tough group, they have been through a lot together and what is remarkable is the growth of the five of them throughout their careers,” said Van Ackeren.

“Marissa, Claire, and Erica are having their best season; the growth in them has been impressive. They are a special group of people.”

Showing some mental toughness, Princeton rallied from a 5-2 seventh inning deficit in the opener on Saturday to pull out a 6-5 win.

“I think initially our focus wasn’t there and unfortunately a three spot is put up,” said Van Ackeren, whose team had swept a doubleheader from the Lions on Friday (winning 9-6 and 8-0) and ended the weekend by falling 9-4 to Columbia in the nightcap on Saturday.

“We have to respond and we do that, which is great so that was really important. A come-from-behind win gives them confidence that whatever kind of game they face, they are going to be OK.”

It was great for the Tigers to wrap up the Ivy South title. “We are excited; this team set that goal early on and expected to do it in a different way than last year as a new group of people which is really special,” said Van Ackeren.

“The league has grown, especially in the past five years that I have seen it. Columbia is a tough team to get three out of four from, they have good hitters.”

While Princeton is hoping to host the best-of-three ILCS, Van Ackeren is confident that her team will take care of business wherever it plays.

“Being there is the first step,” said Van Ackeren, whose team ends regular season play by facing Cornell in doubleheaders on April 29 and April 30, with the first twinbill taking place in Princeton and the second in Ithaca, N.Y.

“If we have the opportunity to host and it is in our control, that is absolutely our goal. We love playing at home, I think every team does. We won on the road last year (at Harvard) and they know how to do that so regardless of where we are, we will compete the same way.”

In the view of Reynolds, Princeton knows it has to stay in the moment to come through.

“It is sticking to our process and sticking to our goals and to know what it is we are working towards and not losing sight of that,” said Reynolds.

“It is also not taking a game for granted and not getting complacent. It is treating each and every game like it is the one to be won.”