After making its debut in the poll last week, the Illinois State softball team made the biggest jump of the week among all ranked teams, climbing to No. 18 Tuesday in the ESPN.com /USA Softball Top-25 Poll.
The Redbirds (15-5) were ranked No. 25 last week in their first-ever appearance in the poll and leaped seven spots. A 4-1 record and championship title at the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament in Los Angeles last weekend fueled the jump.
ISU coach Melinda Fischer is pleased with the recognition her program is receiving.
"Obviously this is just great for the team, the Redbird athletic department and Illinois State as a whole," she said. "We had a great weekend of softball out at UCLA. It meant a lot to the program when we defeated two ranked teams on the same day.
"The team is really focused on what they need to do right now. I was also really proud that after we stumbled a bit on Saturday, we focused in and rebounded and were able to beat Florida again and come out strong and withstand the rally-type situation we were in with Long Beach State and end up on top on Sunday."
ISU posted three wins over ranked squads at the tournament with two victories over then-No. 17 Florida and a 2-1 decision over the No. 12 Bruins on March 2. After falling to the Redbirds, the Gators dropped to No. 24 while UCLA dropped to No. 16.
The Redbirds own a 6-3 record against ranked opponents this season and only four teams on ISU's schedule are currently ranked higher than ISU. No. 5 Oklahoma (twice) and No. 6 Arizona State combined for all three of Illinois State's ranked losses.
Southern Illinois is the only other Missouri Valley school in the poll. The Redbirds passed the Salukis in the rankings, although SIU made the jump from No. 22 to No. 20 this week.
ISU will play in the Southeast Missouri State Spring Classic Saturday and Sunday in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
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