Ivy Vann lives and attends college just down the street from Fenway Park.
But she has not had the time to take in any Boston Red Sox games this season because she is busy with a diamond sport of her own.
The standout left fielder for the Simmons University softball team has helped lead the Sharks to a 10-2 conference record so far this season in the NCAA Division III Great Northeast Athletic Conference.
Vann, a sophomore, is a graduate of Bend’s Mountain View High School who was looking for a small college and a new experience in a big city. She found a perfect fit at Simmons, a private women’s university where she can hear the roars of famed Fenway from her dorm room during Red Sox home games.
“Boston is so much different than I was used to growing up in Bend, and that’s what I wanted,” Vann said in a recent phone interview from Boston. “The city really is beautiful and I really do think that the people really helped me adjust. I’ve met some really amazing people out here. A lot of my friends were born and raised in Massachusetts, so they were the people who allowed me to adjust. It’s been really easy for me, although it is hard leaving my family and everything I’ve known, I absolutely love it out here.”
Playing softball so well no doubt also helped her adjust to college and city life. Vann has twice been named the conference softball player of the week this season. Through the most recent games on Wednesday, she is hitting .345 with 21 RBIs and a .509 slugging percentage with eight doubles, four triples and a home run.
The Sharks are 16-20 overall with the season-ending conference championship tournament coming up next week.
“Honestly, I’ve never considered myself a power hitter before coming into (college),” Vann said. “I think my coach has really instilled that in me, and that confidence that she has in me, it’s really carried over. I’ve been able to be more relaxed and see my teammates and how they believe in me, it’s made it a lot easier on myself. I don’t think I’m as tight up there (at the plate) and I’m just looking to hit the ball.”
Simmons softball coach Brook Capello said she has noticed an increased confidence in Vann this season.
“She carries herself like a veteran player,” Capello said. “Ivy is a positive presence on the team and one of the nicest kids you will ever meet. She has the team and her teammates’ best interests in mind and is willing to do anything for the team.”
Vann recalled that she started playing softball when she was 7 in the Bend Park & Recreation District program. She was noticed by the coach of a local 12U traveling team who saw her potential and encouraged her to play in the more competitive travel league. By high school, she was playing for Mountain View and for the Portland-based 18U Oregon Blaze team that plays in tournaments across the country.
“My parents would drive me four hours to practice on the weekends, so that was awesome of them,” Vann said. “They were a very competitive team and the coaches there, they got me to where I am today.”
Vann’s coach with the Blaze team required players to reach out to at least 10 college coaches at every tournament to which they traveled. He would send his players a list of which coaches would be attending certain tournaments. Vann said she stumbled upon Simmons, noticed that it was located in Boston and was intrigued. She reached out to Capello, who watched Vann play in tournaments in Colorado and California.
“Ivy is incredibly athletic and that is what stood out to me the most,” Capello said. “She has a very strong arm from the outfield and the first time I saw her play live, she beat out a bunt for a base hit. I was excited by her speed and her passion for the outfield, specifically.”
Vann, who attends Simmons on academic scholarships, is a psychology major and nutrition minor. Her career goal is to become a counselor for students.
“I didn’t want to go to one of those huge state schools,” Vann said. “I wanted to go to a school where professors are able to know every student, and it’s just really fun.”
On the softball field, Vann has used some of that psychology study to help her mental approach to hitting.
“That’s something that I’ve always struggled with,” Vann says of feeling pressure at the plate. “So this year with everyone’s support it’s been amazing. I had never always had that confidence in myself. And being able to come into college and even just being here has been so amazing. So I had to just realize that I’m here for a reason.”
Vann made an impression immediately in her first year at Simmons, earning all-conference third-team honors and ranking second in the nation in triples and second in the conference in runs scored with 41.
Though the Sharks have a young team this season, Vann said she likes their chances of winning the championship of the New England-based conference.
“We have a really good group of girls this year,” Vann said. “We’re going to come out strong. Just over the course of this year we’ve really grown together as a team and I think if we can just keep playing the ball that we know how to we’re going to make it really far this year.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,