Softball tabs former player for coaching job

By Meghan Montemurro

The Illinois softball team will feature a familiar face on its coaching staff this season. On Friday, head coach Terri Sullivan announced the hire of former Illini Katie O’Connell as an assistant coach.

“We are thrilled to have Katie returning to Illinois as our assistant coach,” Sullivan said in a press release. “Her expertise in teaching, strategizing and scouting will have an immediate impact on our program. Katie has excelled at every level of the game, both playing and coaching, and we are certain that the skills and success she brings will be an invaluable asset for Illinois softball.”

As a four-year starting second baseman for the Illini from 2001-04, O’Connell led the team to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. In her senior season, the Joliet, Ill., native led Illinois in one of their most successful seasons, registering 45 wins and advancing to the Sweet 16 for the program’s best finish.

O’Connell ranks in the top 10 in school history in numerous offensive categories including games started, runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI and total bases.

“As a player, Katie was a fierce competitor and a student-athlete who understood the tremendous privilege she had to represent the University of Illinois on the field,” Sullivan said in the press release. “Because she understands the game inside and out, Katie was a natural to join the coaching profession.”

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Prior to joining the staff, O’Connell served as head coach at Casey-Westfield High School for the past three years, leading the Warriors to runner-up finishes in back-to-back years in Illinois Class A.