Illinois to face top-seeded No. 10 Michigan in Friday's Quarterfinal
Every Illini in the lineup had at least one hit
Illinois returns majority of offense, gains young talent in pitching rotation
Fighting Illini Athletics added several members to the family recently, as the early National Letter of Intent signing period started on Nov. 13.
Illinois finished the regular season 11-1 including a 10-game winning streak
Double header against Michigan on April 26, 2014.
Illinois played Nebraska with each team taking away a win on April 5, 2014.
Photos from the Illini's game against North Dakota State on March 15, 2014
Photos from the Illini's 5-4 extra-innings victory over Indiana on April 20, 2013.
Illinois' home game against Eastern Illinois on April 9, 2013
Terri Sullivan has brought success to Illinois softball at an unbelievable rate, starting the program from scratch and building it into one that has made a name for itself on the conference, regional and national levels.
Over the past 14 years under Sullivan, Illinois has a 448-316-2 record and has finished in the top half of the Big Ten eight times, including earning second place in 2004 and 2010. The Illini have 38 wins over ranked teams in that span, including a victory over No 5 LSU on Feb. 12, 2005. Sullivan has also led Illinois to four NCAA Tournament appearances, coached three different Illini to four All-America honors and had Illini players earn 41 All-Big Ten accolades.
Illinois returned to the top half of the conference standings in 2013, finishing sixth with an 11-12 Big Ten record. Despite struggling at the start of confence play, the Fighting Illini ended the regular season on an 11-1 run, which included a 10-game winning streak and nine-straight Big Ten victories, to move up six spots in the conference standings and earn a favorable seed for the first Big Ten Tournament since 2008. The Illini played an incredibly difficult schedule, with their SOS ranking as high as fourth in the nation at the start of April, just after defeating then-No. 24 Nebraska on March 30, who would go on to make the Women's College World Series.
The Illini added a fourth straight winning season to the record books in 2012, finishing with 27 wins, including a pair of victories at No. 22 Michigan, the first Big Ten team to secure two wins in Ann Arbor, Mich., in the previous 11 years. Facing another challenging schedule among the most difficult in the nation, the Orange and Blue secured key non-conference wins over Alabama-Birmingham, UMass, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Boston University, Hofstra, New Mexico State and UNLV before entering Big Ten play. Entering the first conference season with three-game series to accommodate the addition of Nebraska, Illinois totaled 10 victories, including a pair each against then-first place Minnesota, eventual Big Ten champion No. 22 Michigan and then-second place Purdue.
Illinois posted its third consecutive winning season in 2011 and earned its first two-time All-America honoree in senior second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz. Sullivan led the Orange and Blue to a third-place finish in the Big Ten during yet another difficult schedule, which included seven games against NFCA Top-25 teams. Zymkowitz also took home NFCA All-Region honors with teammates Jessica Davis and Meredith Hackett and All-Big Ten laurels with Jessica Davis and Hollie Pinchback while being named a Lowe's Senior CLASS Award recipient.
The 2010 season was a complete success, as Sullivan and her staff led Illinois to 45 wins, a second place finish in the Big Ten and another NCAA Tournament appearance. The Illini opened the season with 20 wins spanning four tournaments, including victories over #17 Fresno State and #22 Florida State, en route to a 29-6 non-conference record. The winning streaks continued into conference play as the Illini reeled off 14 consecutive Big Ten wins to finish 16-2 in conference games, the best Big Ten record in program history. As a team, under Sullivan's tutelage, the Illini finished the season ranked in the top-25 nationally in winning percentage (2nd), scoring (8th), batting average (10th), earned run average (15th) and home runs per game (20th).
Individually, Sullivan earned the 2010 Big Ten Coach of the Year Award as she guided the growth of each Illinois player, with a program-best six athletes earning All-Big Ten honors as numerous Illini records were eclipsed and national and conference leaders emerged. Sophomore Meredith Hackett was named an NFCA All-American and to the All-Big Ten First Team with a conference-leading .418 batting average on 11 doubles, 16 home runs, 29 walks and 56 RBIs. Senior Hope Howell and Zymkowitz joined Hackett on the All-Big Ten First Team as the duo finished first and second in the Big Ten in total hits with 76 and 74, respectively. Howell recorded a .411 batting average with 11 doubles, two triples, seven home runs and 41 RBIs while Zymkowitz hit .409 with a team-leading 59 runs scored, eight doubles and 23 RBIs.
Illinois recorded one of the most memorable seasons in school history in 2009, earning the program's third berth to the NCAA Tournament. Sullivan directed the Illini to five wins over ranked opponents, including a memorable sweep over No. 11 Northwestern at Eichelberger Field. In addition, Danielle Zymkowitz became the second All-American in school history, finishing the season batting .401 while scoring 48 runs and reaching base in 42 of 46 games. The Illini also had a then-record five players earn All-Big Ten honors, led by Zymkowitz and designated player Katrina Ross on the conference's first team.
Along with her head coaching duties, Sullivan also handles the Illini pitching staff, which recorded a number of milestones in 2009. Freshman Monica Perry struck out a school-record 223 batters, handily surpassing Amanda Fortune's previous record of 182 from 2004. Perry also won 24 games in her debut season.
When Sullivan was hired as the first Illinois head coach in the summer of 1999, she said her initial goal was to be "as competitive as possible as soon as possible," then to be in position to challenge for Big Ten titles and advance to the NCAA Women's College World Series.
"Terri Sullivan has done an exceptional job with our softball program and has helped put Illinois' name on the softball map in such a short time," then-athletic director Ron Guenther said.
Illinois has become known for its high-powered offense under Sullivan, belting 84 home runs in 2007 and leading the nation with 1.53 long balls per game. Third baseman Shanna Diller and shortstop Angelena Mexicano each belted 16 home runs, breaking the single-season school record and finishing second in Big Ten history. In 2008, Mexicano broke Big Ten single-season records with 24 home runs and 160 total bases. The Illini also ranked in the top 15 in the nation in home runs per game and slugging percentage.
Sullivan coached the first All-American in school history in 2006, as first baseman Jenna Hall was named to the NFCA All-America First Team after batting .481 in her senior season. Hall went on to make all-league in her first year in the National Professional Fastpitch League after ending her illustrious Illini career.
In 2004, Illinois graduated its first group of seniors, who accomplished one of Sullivan's goals. That year, Illinois posted a 45-21-1 record, advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, and reached the regional final, or NCAA Sweet Sixteen. That team also ended the season in the rankings for the first time in school history, finishing in the highest-ever national spot by an Illinois team at No. 17.
The 2003 season was historic in many ways. Along the way to playing in the first NCAA Tournament in program history, the Illini completed defeating every Big Ten team in its history with a 4-0 victory over No. 14 Michigan in Ann Arbor. Illinois also posted the best record in school history and defeated two additional ranked teams.
In 2002, Illinois received its first-ever first team All-Big Ten and All-Region selections in Lindsey Hamma and LeeAnn Butcher. The Illini also defeated three more ranked teams.
With players primarily from Illinois and California, the Illini's first scholarship team in 2001 included 18 freshmen. In the first month of the 2001 season, Illinois defeated its first ranked opponent in No. 16 Florida State. A few weeks later, the Illini posted back-to-back wins over College World Series finalist and 12th-ranked Iowa.
Sullivan wasted little time in reaching her first goal for the program upon receiving the head coaching job in 1999. Never one to back away from a challenge, Sullivan was given the option of starting the program in 2000 or 2001. She opted to begin right away to establish the program's presence. Sullivan took a group of walk-ons and led the team to 13 wins in 30 games, posting victories over a number of more established programs.
Having proven her recruiting ability for national contender Illinois-Chicago, Sullivan and assistant coach Donna DiBiase canvassed the country to find some of the top talent to begin the Illini's program. Sullivan has strong recruiting ties not only to the state of Illinois, but also California, Texas and throughout the Midwest.
No one wanted to start the Illini program more than Sullivan or believed more that Illinois was the place that could be the next softball power. Despite being the last school in the Big Ten to add softball, the University of Illinois sat in the middle of a softball hotbed with some of the top high school teams in the nation in the state. The communities in immediate proximity were also knowledgeable about the sport and eager to support a team in Champaign. That was demonstrated in the more than 90 players who showed up for an open try-out on campus for Illinois' first team.
Sullivan's success is no accident. Her enthusiasm for the game rubs off on her players, coaches, fans, support staff and the softball world. No matter who you are or what setting you're in, you can't help but feel some of Sullivan's love of the game. As fun to be around as any person, she is as intense and driven when it comes to the game of softball. Whether it be recruiting or preparing for practices or games, her work ethic can't be topped.
After graduating from Loyola University in 1992, Sullivan became an integral part of the national success at Illinois-Chicago. Sullivan joined the Flames in 1992 as a graduate assistant coach while completing a master's degree in sports management. She was elevated to assistant coach in 1994 and finally to associate head coach in 1997. Over her seven seasons, the Flames compiled a 381-125 record, including tying an NCAA record with 67 victories in the 1999 campaign. UIC was a top-25 team during the entire period and a top-10 team during Sullivan's last season. The Flames qualified for three NCAA regional appearances and reached the 1994 College World Series.
At UIC, Sullivan was the pitching coach while also directing the catchers and outfielders. In addition to her coaching responsibilities, Sullivan was on the kinesiology faculty and the marketing staff, and served as an academic advisor for athletics.
As a pitcher, Sullivan was a two-time Most Valuable Player at Loyola. She ranks second in single-season innings pitched (218), while standing third in career innings (511) and sixth in career strikeouts (177).
As a player at Loyola, Sullivan was voted a District IV Academic All-American in 1992 and to the All-Midwestern Collegiate All-Conference team in both 1991 and 1992. She graduated cum laude from Loyola and earned a master's degree in sports management at UIC.
Coaching is nothing new to the Sullivan household. Terri's late father, Gene Sullivan, was the athletic director at DePaul, assistant basketball coach at Notre Dame and head basketball coach at Loyola, leading the Ramblers to the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen.
Sullivan married former Illinois Associate Athletic Director Shawn Wax in 2006. Wax was a standout receiver at Illinois during the John Mackovic era. Their daughter, Macy, was born in March, 2010.
THE SULLIVAN FILE
At the University of Illinois