Once enemies, Illinois teammates now together


Austin Yattoni

Illinois outfielder Maddi Doane (14) hits the ball during the game against Northwestern at Eichelberger Field on Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2018.

By Brian Binz, Staff Writer

On March 13, 2016, Syracuse and North Carolina played each other in softball.

Syracuse sophomore Maddi Doane went 1-for-3, and North Carolina freshman Kiana Sherlund pinch ran for a run in a 2-1 win for the Tar Heels.

On April 8, 2018, Doane and Sherlund combined for 11 RBIs, but this time, their efforts were for the same team.

The two both transferred to Illinois in the 2016 offseason, arriving in Urbana-Champaign for the start of the 2017 season and becoming roommates.

However, when they were on opposing teams, neither player really knew about the other.

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“I didn’t know who she was at the time,” Sherlund said. “I wish we had known each other before.”

For Sherlund, the path led to Illinois after just one year with limited appearances at North Carolina. However, for Doane, the decision to become an Illini came after she had been a staple in Syracuse’s lineup.

Doane said that coming out of high school, she wanted to play in a power five conference; however, coaches at the time didn’t have their eyes set on the Bolingbrook native.

One coach that did watch Doane closely was Tyra Perry at Western Kentucky. Doane even took a visit to the campus in Bowling Green.

After a change in the coaching staff in Syracuse, Doane got a release from the university and was looking for a new home. But Perry was no longer in Western Kentucky.

“It all kinda opened up for me to come closer to home,” Doane said. “It led me here, and I’m glad for that.”

The appreciation goes both ways.

“We are really excited to have her,” Perry said. “Whenever we find out a great player is available, we try and put our hat in the ring.”

Now that the two are both part of an Illini lineup that put up 20 runs for the second time in school history, they are quickly becoming a lot closer.

“We talk about how it’s just funny that we had been on the same field prior, and there we are the next season as roommates and really good friends,” Doane said.

For Sherlund, there is a sense of pride over their similar background. However, for Doane, it’s more about the destination than the journey.

Doane said that the two have more pride in being able to represent the Fighting Illini than over their previous teams. However, the transition from the diamonds out east and the ones she steps into as a member of the Illini are no different.

“Pitching is very similar,” Doane said. “Pretty easy transition regarding the two conferences.”

Doane said it was fun having a partner to reference how the two leagues compare.

It’s more than fun for Sherlund, as their experiences in the ACC were being put to direct use even this year, when Illinois played Pittsburgh and her last school, North Carolina.

“Her and I both played Pitt before,” Sherlund said. “And I obviously know the UNC team pretty well.”

Doane is hitting a career-high .382 batting average with seven home runs, and Sherlund is leading the team with a .410 batting average and has 11 more RBIs than last year, in 20 fewer games.

The two are also steady members of the Illini outfield, posting fielding percentages of .967 and .875 for Sherlund and Doane, respectively.

While all those years back they may not have known each other yet, Doane thinks there was a something else that brought them together.

“It just opened up; perfect timing, perfect opportunity,” Doane said. “It was kind of fate.”


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