Kiyohara's have a Sister Act going at U of L

The University of Louisville has another set of sisters not named Schimmel who are excelling in two sports. Hannah Kiyohara is a star softball player for the Cardinals, while Leah Kiyohara runs track and cross country. Cardinal Authority talks to the Kiyohara sisters.

The Schimmel sisters are the most famous siblings playing for the University of Louisville, with Shoni and Jude both staring for the Cardinals' women's basketball team.

But the Schimmel's are not the only Sister Act taking place this school year at U of L.

Meet the Kiyohara sisters. The siblings from Auburn, Wash., don't play the same sport but they have made a name for themselves on campus.

Senior Hannah Kiyohara is one of the top players - and leaders - on the U of L softball team and her sister - Leah - is a sophomore on the track and field and cross country team.

"We don't play the same sport, so it's easier for me to focus on what I do," Leah Kiyohara said. "But it's been so much fun for us."

Hannah added: "It's been a lot of fun having here here. It's made it fun for both of us. We're a long way from home but we have each other."

The sisters don't live together but Leah points out that "we will be living together this summer. That should be fun."

The Kiyohara sisters came to U of L because of Hannah's decision to come to U of L. She was playing in a tournament in Owensboro, Ky., when the U of L coaches asked her to visit.

"It was amazing," she said. "I loved it and I knew it was the place for me. I came here without a lot of expectations. I think I came here with kind of a chip on my shoulder. But I just came in and wanted to work extremely hard."

Hannah Kiyohara was here for two years before her sister arrived on campus and said she was "really excited" when Leah opted to attended U of L and join her on campus.

"I don't know how much different it was before, but it's been fun having her here," Hannah said. "It's kind of weird to think we are so far from home, but we still have each other here. It's made it easier for both of us."

Added Leah: "And that's one of the reasons I came because it is so far but she was already here so that was a plus for me. She was able to tell me what to do and what not to do in certain things and so that's really been nice."

While Hannah Kiyohara didn't come to U of L with a ton of lofty expectations she's been a two-time All-Conference performer.

Kiyohara came to U of L as an infielder but knew she wasn't going to get a lot of playing time as a freshman until she was asked to play right field because of injuries.

"I knew I wasn't going to get a lot of middle infield time and we had some injuries," she said. "So, there was a right field spot open and they asked me if I wanted to play and I was like, 'Yep.' And that got me on the field."

Kiyohara, the first U of L softball player from Washington, ended up starting 42 games and hit .331 with 22 RBIs and a .347 slugging percentage. She was named first-team All-Big East Conference for that season.

"Nobody saw that coming," she said of her honors. "But it was a great season. I kind of ended the year in a bit of a slump."

As a sophomore, Kiyohara played in 38 games but hit just .179 and she stayed in right field that season and all of last season. As a junior, Kiyohara made All-Big East honors again and hit .342 with five doubles, 27 RBIs and a .432 slugging percentage.

"I wasn't on the field as much as a sophomore but we were winning and it was fun," she said. "It really took two weeks into my junior year until coach (Sandy Pearsall) helped me get out of that slump. It took me a while."

As a senior, Kiyohara has become a team leader and is hitting .258 for the Cardinals. She's helped the team to a 33-20 record and has moved back to her familiar old spot at shortstop.

"This year has been different," she said. "This class has always had a really big hand in helping this team but we have never had to lead, so that's been a challenge for us. But it's been fun trying to do what we need to do."

Leah Kiyohara has competed in seven cross country events and a bunch of outdoor track meets in her two years. She said she has run a personal best in several races this year.

"I played softball when I was younger but I didn't have the same passion for softball as I did for running," she said. "I really enjoy being able to break personal bests and being able to push myself to the limits."

"At first, I was like I wasn't going to come here because I didn't want to go where my older sister does. But I came here few more times and fell in love with it and I'm so glad I did. It's been a lot of fun for both of us."

UPDATE: The softball team will begin play on Thursday morning at 11 a.m. in the AAC Tournament against Temple. The Cardinals are the No. 3 seed in the tournament. A win would send the Cardinals into Friday's semifinals.

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