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HANOVER, N.H. – Two weeks ago, Punxsutawney Phil decided winter would continue for six more weeks, and while that is definitely the case in Hanover, New Hampshire, the Dartmouth softball team still begins its season next week.

“I’m really looking forward to this year, this is one of those teams that you get excited every day to come to work and coach,” said head coach Shannon Doepking. “It was easy for our team to figure out what we needed to learn from the previous year to get back on track. From day one, they have taken ownership of this team and come to practice every day giving 100 percent effort, and compete more than any team I’ve coached since being at Dartmouth.

“We know that there will be highs and lows, but as long as they continue to focus on the process and stay the course, we control our future.” 

The Big Green start a 39-game schedule next weekend at the FAU Strike Out Cancer Tournament in Florida beginning on Friday, February 23.

In 2017, the Big Green were prepared to make another run at the conference title after a solid 2016 season, but fell short of the goal in the end losing the last seven games of the season. Dartmouth finished the year with an 11-28-1 record and an Ivy League mark of 10-10. With a tough non-conference schedule to start the season, the Big Green didn’t win a game until March 25 against UC Riverside on the road. Harvard and Columbia were the only Ancient Eight teams Dartmouth was unable to take down last season. Four seniors finished their career playing in the green and white last year, including 2017 First Team All-Ivy selections Alyssa Jorgensen and Karen Chaw, Chloe Madill and Maddie Damore.

The Big Green open their season next weekend in Florida and travel the following week to Arkansas for the Razorback Invitational. The team has one weekend off between the trip to Arkansas and a trip to Houston for the 2018 Houston Tournament during Saint Patrick’s Day, and will remain in Texas for games against Lamar and Houston Baptist the following week. The Ivy League slate begins March 24 at Penn and Dartmouth will host Columbia, Cornell, Yale and Brown for conference action. Only one non-conference game will be played in Hanover, as Holy Cross comes to campus on April 10 for one game.

Six members of the class of 2021 joined the Big Green this season and begin their collegiate career shortly. The newest members of the Dartmouth squad are: Shelby Wilkison, Delaney Marshall, Abby Shipley, Schae Nelson, McKenna Gray and Heather Turner.

While Doepking returns for her fourth season at Dartmouth, she added two new assistants in the off-season, Paige McDuffee and Olivia Watkins. McDuffee is a 2017 grad of UCLA where she pitched for four seasons, while Watkins arrived after spending two years as a volunteer assistant at the University of Illinois. 

The 2018 roster includes four All-Ivy selections from last season, including senior catcher Claire Bird who was one of three First Team honorees in 2017. Bird had 36 starts in 37 games played behind the plate, and finished the season batting .292 with 28 hits, including four doubles and two home runs, she also drove in 13 runs and scored 17. Junior Morgan Martinelli enters her third season playing third base for the Big Green. The Second Team All-Ivy choice finished her sophomore season with six homeruns, tied for the team high with Damore. Martinelli batted .323 with a team-best 41 hits and 26 RBIs as she started all but one game last year. Also returning is senior pitcher Breanna Ethridge who finished with a 5.20 ERA in 164.1 innings, 17 complete games pitched, and 98 strikeouts, good enough for second in the Ivy League. Sophomore shortstop Calista Almer wrapped up a solid freshman campaign, gaining honorable mention All-Ivy honors along with Ethridge, with 39 hits, including a team-best seven doubles and 13 RBIs batting .333.

Starting this spring, the Ivy League will no longer use the division format, with every team playing a three-game series (doubleheader Saturday, single game Sunday) against each other for a total of 21 games. The two teams with the best records will then advance to the Ivy League Championship Series (ILCS), which will be hosted by the conference’s top team. The 2017 season ended with Princeton sweeping Harvard in the championship series to win its 19th Ivy League Title.

Previously known as the Ivy League Digital Network, this season’s home games will all be broadcast on the Ivy League Network (ILN) for subscribers. The ILN is available on Apple TV, Roku and the ILN app for Android and Apple devices. Brett Franklin will return to the booth to call this season’s games. The Ivy away games will also be broadcast on the ILN when available.