Looking to follow up a 2018 NCAA tournament appearance with another one, the Illinois State University Redbirds are currently in the middle of conference play trying to make that happen. One of, if not the main driving force behind the Redbirds is junior Kaylee Martin.
Martin started her career as a Husky in DeKalb at Northern Illinois. However, she became a Redbird in Normal before her sophomore year in 2018 and she has never looked back. So, even though she is a junior, this is her first year coming back to a team.
“This is my first time being a returning player,” Martin said. “This year I have to be more of a leader with more of a voice.”
Martin began her career at NIU in 2017 where she was a member of the All-MAC team as a freshman but decided that she needed a change and transferred to ISU after her freshman year.
She came in as a sophomore at ISU with a bang as she was named All-MVC as a sophomore and was part of the Missouri Valley Conference All-Tournament Team. The team was able to make it to the NCAA tournament last year, where they were bounced in the first round by Cincinnati.
2019 is a new year for Martin and the Redbirds, and they are trying to go even further with the talented roster that they have. Now in her second year at ISU Martin has stepped more into a leadership role for the 9-7 Redbirds.
“It’s my job to be the leader now,” she said. "With a roster this deep we just need to go out there and have fun and the results will take care of themselves.”
Martin and the Redbirds have some high goals. Simply qualifying for the NCAA Tournament is not enough. They are looking to make some noise once they get there, but they are not looking ahead. The team knows that it cannot make some noise if it does not qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and it understands what it needs to do now in conference play.
The Redbirds currently have a record of 9-7 and are 2-2 in conference play. With a victory over nationally ranked No. 14 University of Illinois in the Redbird Classic, they have proven that they can play with anyone in the nation. Something that the team hopes to show in both the MVC and the NCAA Tournaments at the end of the year.
The Redbirds go against Drake on the road at 6 p.m. Friday.