The Blackhawks opened this NHL season by getting at least a point in a record 24 straight games, the Miami Heat won 27 straight NBA games this year, and Louisville just claimed the NCAA men’s basketball title after winning its last 16 games. But twin sisters from St. Charles are part of what might be the nation’s most impressive current winning streak.
St. Charles North grads Sydney and Taylor Russell are sophomores on a University of Indianapolis softball team which has won 27 straight games. The Greyhounds (34-2) are ranked first in the latest NCAA Division II softball rankings.
“We’re No. 1 in the nation right now,” Taylor said. “I feel like we’re just coming together as a team and we have all the talent in the world right now.”
That talent includes the Russell twins, both key members of the squad. Taylor has started all 36 games for Indianapolis and is hitting .364 with five home runs and 25 RBIs. Sydney has played in 19 games and has a homer and nine RBIs.
Taylor started 33 games at first base and 13 in either left or right field as a freshman and hit .291 with two homers.
Splitting time between second base and right field last season, Sydney hit .384 and was named First Team All-Region by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and First Team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference.
The Greyhounds ended the season 50-9, finishing the year with a loss in the Division II Midwest Regional semifinals to Illinois-Springfield, a team Indianapolis had defeated in the conference championship game.
“We were really good last year,” Sydney said. “We just didn’t quite get the job done at the end of the season. … We were expecting to come back strong this year and work our way back to the top.”
The Greyhounds were ranked 15th in the nation in a preseason poll, but have steadily climbed the rankings with the help of the winning streak, which began Feb. 23 with an 8-0 victory at North Alabama. Most of the games have not been close, with Indianapolis winning by an average score of 7-1.
That statistic comes as no surprise to Taylor, who says the Greyhounds’ success starts with four solid pitchers.
“All of them can get the job done,” she says. “[Then] we have hitters one through nine in the lineup.”
Taylor started out the season on a tear at the plate, hitting over .500 in the first 14 games with two homers. That sort of production is nothing new for her. She had four hits and five RBIs in the 2011 IHSA Class 4A state championship game, which North lost to Moline, 9-8. Her performance throughout the season and at the state tournament made her a consensus first-team all-state selection.
Sydney also turned in an impressive prep career, earning three first-team all-conference honors and batting .411 as a senior.
Either Russell might have filled a need at an NCAA Division I school, but the duo refused to be separated.
“We wanted to go together and Indianapolis allowed that, so that’s why we chose Indianapolis,” Sydney said. “We looked at Indianapolis and Indiana in general, since my mom grew up here.”
The two spurned offers from Winona State, Upper Iowa and Wisconsin-Whitewater, among others.
Both say they’re happy they chose Indianapolis.
“It’s awesome,” Taylor said. “We share an apartment together. If there’s a bad day, I always have someone I can turn to and I can trust.”
Although they are not identical twins, Sydney said the bond between them is very strong.
“We may look different, but we’re really similar in personality,” she said.
“When things are tough, I have her here to push me. … It’s really great to have Taylor by my side.”
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes the weekly On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To suggest local college athletes deserving recognition, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.