Confidence is key for Illinois softball success

Just one week into its season, the Illinois softball team already possesses one key component for success — confidence.

That confidence came during the UNLV Sportco Kick-Off Classic last weekend when the Illini outscored their five opponents by a combined score of 43-6 while posting three shutouts.

“We’re going into this (weekend’s) tournament with all the confidence in the world,” junior captain Danielle Zymkowitz said.

“We knew we wanted to come into this season super hot, and we feel we gained a lot of confidence for this tournament,” Zymkowitz said.

The Illini (5-0) will take their perfect record to the Stanford Nike Invitational in Stanford, Calif., this weekend in hopes of building on the success they have achieved early this season.

This weekend’s tournament, however, will bring new challenges as the Illini will face ranked competition for the first time this season.

Illinois will face No. 11 Stanford and No. 17 Fresno State on Friday and Saturday, respectively, and head coach Terri Sullivan believes her team is ready to compete.

“Last weekend, we had a balanced attack both offensively and defensively and we’re looking to bring that with us this weekend,” Sullivan said. “It’s a quality tournament with a lot of teams that have had great success and have a lot of softball tradition.”

Illinois will also face Sacramento State on Friday, UC Riverside on Saturday and will finish its weekend campaign Sunday against Nevada.

To continue down their path of perfection, sophomore pitcher Monica Perry said she, along with the rest of her team, needs to treat every team alike — regardless of their ranking.

“This weekend, I need to focus on looking at every batter on every team the same,” Perry said. “Whether or not they are ranked, I need to have the same game plan. The same goes for our whole team … We have a tendency to let up if we think we are going to win and we need to just execute our game plan.”

Zymkowitz added although the team’s offense exploded for an average of 8.6 runs a game last weekend, there was room for improvement.

“In a couple of games last weekend, we left a lot of runners on base,” Zymkowitz said. “We just need to move runners and stay aggressive in our at-bats.”

Sullivan credited the team’s early success to their hard work off the field — something that is creating a family-style atmosphere within the team.

“I’ve seen this team really gel together because of the extra work they put in on their own,” Sullivan said. “They do a lot of activities together that are carrying over to on the field success.

“Team chemistry is definitely a strength of this group. It’s something that we work on all season long. I always think the chemistry of a team either pulls you through, or pulls you under,” Sullivan said.