It didn't take long for Stephanie Abello to make an impact on Benet's softball team.
Her college decision came quickly, too.
The Benet sophomore accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Illinois this past week. Both of Abello's parents, Kim and Oscar, attended Illinois, as have many of her cousins. Stephanie, though, will be the first to do so on an athletic scholarship.
"I wasn't expecting to make a decision so early because it is a process," Abello said, "but when I got on campus and met the coaches and heard the coach talk about their philosophy, I could really see myself playing down there for them. I knew it was the right fit."
Swinging a lethal lefty bat, Abello -- whose nickname "Slap" doesn't much fit her softball game -- hit .415 as a freshman last spring with 13 homers, 53 runs batted in and scored 40 runs for a 32-5 Benet team that scored a staggering 358 runs.
Abello hit 3 homers in a game against Marian Catholic, and Benet coach Jerry Schilf recalled a homer that went 260 or 270 feet off of a good Bishop McNamara pitcher.
"She's a unique enough player that it doesn't take much to realize that she can hit, and she can hit anybody," Schilf said. "She hits so well you're going to find a place for her."
Growing up Abello went to many Illinois football and basketball games with her family, but she always considered going there herself a "what-if" situation. As it turns out Illinois was the first to offer her.
"The whole thing has kind of been a dream come true," Abello said. "I'm confident in my decision. It's been a week and I look back and know I made the right decision."
Abello played left field as a freshman, but with Kendall Duffy graduated and now at Bradley, Abello will move behind the plate to catch this spring. Asked what she could do for an encore, Abello immediately brought up a disappointing 1-0 loss to Neuqua Valley in regionals.
"We want to get downstate and we want to win it," Abello said. "I know we'll miss Kendall, but we still have a pretty stacked lineup. I think we have the tools to reach our goals."
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