Softball eyes postseason during finals season


By Eli Schuster

In early May, finals season is a time where other activities slow down and study takes priority.

For the Illinois softball team, there is no such luxury. 

May isn’t just finals season. It’s also the final weeks of the regular season, as the team quickly approaches postseason play. However, the Illini are confident the hectic schedule isn’t too much to handle.

“We talk to them quite a bit,” said head coach Tyra Perry. “There’s a couple that has something where they need to have different practice sessions, and we accommodate them.”

Perry said the academic obligations at the end of their season are just part of the deal and the team talks about academic as well as athletic greatness.

One way that gets done is through the team’s academic subcommittee, led by senior Maddi Doane.

“Overall, we have got really smart girls on the team. They’re able to handle their duties off and on the field,” Doane said. “It’s really not too big a deal for us.”

Doane said the team spends a lot of time studying during downtime, whether it be on the bus or when they are together. On top of the group study, Doane said  each player has an “accountability partner” to stay on top of their academics.

“We have a bunch of girls who are kinesiology majors, communication majors and what not, so if you’ve got similar classes going on, we’ll study together,” Doane said.

One of the kinesiology majors is senior Leigh Farina who said for her, time management has allowed this to be a much less stressful time off the field. On top of her accomplishments on the field, Farina has also garnered Academic All-Big Ten selections in her junior and sophomore seasons.

“We’ve been doing it all year,” Farina said. “People seem to be getting their stuff done early so we can focus on playing.”

Farina’s kinesiology finals won’t be the only finals she has in the coming week. This weekend’s games will be her and the rest of the nine seniors’ last at Eichelberger Field.

While it may not be hitting her too hard yet, Farina is prepared for this weekend to be emotional.

“It means a lot. I made my best friends (here) and we’re all graduating together,” Farina said. “A lot of people don’t get to say that they did that.”

That tight friendship didn’t go unnoticed by Perry, who said that she was most impressed by how the class gelled, despite new additions along the way like Doane and  Rowan McGuire.

“They’re so funny; we have a bunch of jokesters on the team that keep things light,” Perry said.

For some of the underclassmen, the emotions of the weekend are starting to creep up. Junior Kiana Sherlund said the seniors don’t feel separate; they feel like her best friends.

“It hasn’t really kicked in yet,” Sherlund said. “I’m getting emotional.”

Doane can feel the urgency as the end of the year approaches.

“I want to win for this team, I want to keep playing,” Doane said. “I love softball, I love this team. You never know which pitch will be your last.”

The Illini are not guaranteed an NCAA tournament berth just yet, as their RPI isn’t high enough for them to feel confident about selection. Sitting at No. 59 in the country, Illinois is behind teams like Longwood, North Dakota State and Lipscomb.

If the Illini do make it in, it will be the first time in program history they’ve made the tournament three years in a row.

However, Perry isn’t too focused on those problems.

“All we can do is control what we can control,” Perry said. “We need to play well.”


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