URBANA (WCIA) — Senior Sydney Sickels has been a rock in the circle for Illinois softball for most of her career.

“Sydney has been on the mound and had the ball in her hands for any of our big games,” says head coach Tyra Perry. “A lot of our main Top 10, Top 25 wins, she was in the circle.”

“We always talk about just staying ready whenever the time comes,” says Sickels. “That’s just one thing we’re really good at is just rolling with the punches.”

The Illini have faced a challenging schedule this year, playing top schools in the SEC, ACC and more. Perry says challenging games will make her team better, especially with most of the team returning next year. A big reason they have competed in tough games was because of Sickels.

“That just shows how hard working and dedicated and talented Sydney Sickels is and we can’t do what we do without Sydney,” says Perry.

Over the past four years, Sickels has an ERA of 2.82. She was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week four times throughout her career. Recently, Sickels reached second in most strikeouts in Illini history. She’s 120 away from first place, but has one extra year left because of the COVID season.

“I really didn’t know I was getting that close to it, but it’s cool to see that come about,” says Sickels. “I’m really just trying to get the strikeouts for my team and that’s best way I know I can help my team is with those strikeouts.”

But it’s her calm demeanor and leadership capabilities that Perry says keeps Sickels impressive in the circle.

“I think most people would say I’m more of a leader by example,” says Sickels. “I’m not the most loud person on our team, but just leading by example and I know that our team needs a calm presence and I try to be that for our team as well.”

“She’s like a coach on the field,” says Perry. “She’s so mature and she’s really stepped into her leadership style over the past couple of years. She’s not extremely vocal, but when she does speak, everyone listens.”