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The student news site of Downers Grove South High School


The student news site of Downers Grove South High School


Cushing is ready to hit it out of the park as an Illini

Ella Cushing
Senior Ella Cushing using her power to forcefully hit the ball during a summer Cheetahs game.

Senior Ella Cushing is no stranger to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus, as both of her parents attended the university and her father played football for the Fighting Illini. However, she will soon be walking onto campus in a role other than just a legacy student. Cushing committed to play Division I softball at the University of Illinois.

She finalized her decision to attend the university in January 2023 after her official campus visit.

“After I went on my visit and got to meet the players and see the campus, I knew it was home. I just got the most amazing feeling being there, and it was like love at first sight. It has been my dream school since I started playing, and I am so lucky and privileged to get the chance to do that,” Cushing said.

Cushing currently plays on the DGS varsity softball team as a pitcher and will play for Illinois Chill Gold in the summer before heading off to college as a corner. Cushing’s decision to play softball was driven by her natural talents and love for the sport.

“I decided to stick with softball because it was the most fun and it came the most naturally to me. I always knew that when I had to pick a sport it would be softball because I love the game and it is so much fun playing and seeing how the game develops and grows,” Cushing said.

The technical skill of hitting and the mental challenges that come with softball are her favorite aspects of the game.

“I love hitting because I like the challenge it gives, as hitting a softball or baseball is arguably the hardest thing to do in sports and I like being able to challenge myself, and doing such a hard thing in sports makes it so much better when you succeed. Then I like the mental aspect because the game is so hard that you have to have a good mentality. You fail more often than you succeed in this sport so you have to be mentally tough, and I love that because having that skill will be so helpful when it is time to move on from the game,” Cushing said.

DGS varsity softball coach Morgan Bianchi has coached Cushing throughout her four years as a starter.

“She leads in many ways through her words, actions and game play. She is one of the hardest workers off the field – she is constantly working on her craft for pitching and hitting as well as lifting. She continues to be one of the top offensive producers on our varsity team; every team backs up when she steps in the batter’s box,” Bianchi said.

Bianchi believed Cushing’s recruitment was based on her work ethic and commitment to softball.

“Ella is a well-rounded player that has a lot to offer any team. The University of Illinois staff saw in Ella a true Illini in every facet of the game, and she brings both the competitive edge and leadership that is uncommon for a college freshman. We are excited to see Ella play at the next level in orange and blue,” Bianchi said.

Senior and varsity softball player Grace Taylor has been Cushing’s teammate for almost 10 years.

“Ella is competitive but always cheers on everyone else around her. She always pushes me to be my best and makes the other people around her better. She gives off the best energy and can hype everyone up,” Taylor said.

Taylor has observed Cushing’s strengths as a player throughout their time playing for the Downers Grove Rebels, Chicago Cheetahs and DGS varsity softball team.

“She is the hardest worker I know and always gives it her best no matter what. She can also hit the ball really far and it’s so fun watching her play,” Taylor said.

Cushing is looking forward to playing at the collegiate level and developing a relationship with her new teammates.

“When I got to know the team more on my official [visit], it got me so excited to go there and to be a part of a team like this. They are all super sweet and talented players and I can’t wait to see how the coaches and players challenge me to become the best version of myself and the best player I can be,” Cushing said.

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