2012 Softball Signing Class Packs Power, Speed & Defense

Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan signed a diverse and talented class for 2012, bringing in players from across the country.
Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan signed a diverse and talented class for 2012, bringing in players from across the country.

Nov. 10, 2011

URBANA, Ill. - University of Illinois softball head coach Terri Sullivan added six student-athletes to the Fighting Illini family on Thursday with the announcement of the 2012 recruiting class. Sullivan brings in talent from across the nation, with representative of the states of California, Illinois, Kansas and Texas joining the Orange and Blue. The 2012 Illini class includes Kylie Johnson (Kankakee, Ill./Kankakee), Remeny Perez (Tustin, Calif./Tustin), Cheyenne Rankin (Paola, Kansas/Paola), Katie Repole (Bulverde, Texas/Smithson Valley), Jade Smith (New Braunfels, Texas/New Braunfels) and Danielle Trezzo (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove).

Sullivan on the 2012 signing class: "I am so excited and proud to welcome six great student-athletes and six fantastic families to the University of Illinois and our Fighting Illini softball family. Throughout the recruiting process, everyone in our campus community that has met them has come away saying the same thing: `Wow!' Athletically, they are very gifted. As people, they are even better. Our fans will enjoy watching them play and getting to know them."

Meet the Newest Illini:

Kylie Johnson
Position: Outfield
Hometown/High School: Kankakee, Ill./Kankakee2012 Illinois softball signee Kylie Johnson
High School Coach: Deb Johnson
Travel Team: Team Oak Stars 18U
Travel Coach: Laura Harms

Notes: First Team Underclassmen All-America ... Chicago Tribune First Team All-State ... Kankakee Daily Journal First Team All-Area ... Two-time First Team All-Southland Conference ... Batted .675 with a .710 on-base percentage during the 2011 season at Kankakee, stealing 76 bases while scoring 67 runs and batting in 38 more ... Holds the Kankakee High School records for most hits, highest batting average, highest on-base percentage, most singles, longest hitting streak, most stolen bases and most runs scored ... Helped lead Kankakee to Southland Athletic Conference Championships in 2009-11 ... Hit .591 with 104 hits, including six doubles, while totaling 70 runs scored and 52 stolen bases during the 2011 summer season with Team Oak Stars 18U ... National Honor Society member ... Ranks second overall in a class of 383 students at Kankakee ... Kankakee Honor Roll award recipient during each semester ... Parents are Carl and Kelli Johnson ... Plans to focus her studies at the University of Illinois in kinesiology ... Chose the Fighting Illini over offers from DePaul, Western Illinois and Tulsa.

Sullivan on Kylie Johnson: "We received an email from Laura Harms, Kylie's travel ball coach and a former NPF player, that really emphasized Kylie's athleticism and speed in particular. Coach Katie O'Connell went out to watch her play in Bloomington, and of course had the stop watch ready to go. Katie [O'Connell] got a home-to-first time in Kylie's first at bat, but then recorded another and another and yet another believing the stopwatch had to be wrong! You can't blink your eyes when Kylie is up to bat or you will miss her in action! Kylie is an automatic scoring threat when she gets on first base. She has grown up an Illini fan and now will have those great fans of ours excited to watch her in action."

Team Oak Stars 18U Gold Head Coach Laura Harms: "Kylie is ecstatic about being part of the Illinois program. She is an amazing softball player with unbelievable speed, skill, heart, and passion for the game. More important, Kylie has a great head on her shoulders that will help her succeed in the classroom and on the field. Kylie has always had the dream of becoming a Fighting Illini softball player and we are all so excited to watch that dream come true."

Remeny Perez
Position: Infield/Outfield
Hometown/High School: Tustin, Calif./Tustin2012 Illinois softball signee Remeny Perez.
High School Coach: Pepe Vasquez
Travel Team: California Cruisers
Travel Coach: Lyn Christensen

Notes: Earned second-team all-league and received the MUN Outstanding Award while playing for Tustin ... Hit .421 with a pair of homers as the lead-off hitter for Tustin High School in 2011 ... Plays travel ball for the California Cruisers and coach Lyn Christensen, batting .375 while the Cruisers earned a third place finish in the nation and second place finish within the state of California ... Parents are Lorraine Perez and Robert Larson ... Was invited to and attended President Obama's Inauguration ... Plans to focus her studies at the University of Illinois in either psychology or business ... Chose to become an Illini over, among other choices, offers from Purdue and UC Davis.

Sullivan on Remeny Perez: "Coach Donna DiBiase was at a tournament in California and was taking a look at a pitcher we had on our radar. A lefty batter came up and just roped a double to left-center field off of the pitcher, and Donna took note. The same batter came up again, and lined a ball to right-center field. Remeny was that player. She never stopped hitting that entire weekend! Remeny is also the type of player that loves to be up to bat in pressure situations, and thrives on performing her best in those moments. She really uses the whole field well, and doesn't have many pitches that she doesn't like!"

California Cruisers Gold Head Coach Lyn Christensen: "Remeny Perez is the consummate teammate. Her discipline and her work ethic are contagious, evoking both respect and unity from those around her. Remeny is arguably the most mature student-athlete I have ever coached. Her character and integrity are as powerful to a team as her big lefty swing! I look forward to following her journey with the Fighting Illini!"

Cheyenne Rankin
Position: Infield/Outfield
Hometown/High School: Paola, Kansas/Paola
High School Coach: Troy Collier2012 Illinois softball signee Cheyenne Rankin
Travel Team: DeMarini Zephyrs
Travel Coach: Ryan Taylor

Notes: Has lettered for Paola in each of her three seasons ... Earned First Team All-State as a junior in 2011 ... Two-time all-league honoree ... 2011 Second Team All-Metro ... Led 2010 and 2011 Paolo softball teams to third place finishes in the Kansas state tournament ... Batted .540 with an .885 slugging percentage and .580 on-base percentage, stealing 21 bases as well, during the 2011 season ... Batted .406 with a .520 on-base percentage and recording a .980 fielding percentage for her travel team, the DeMarini Zephyrs ... Earned a top-five finish at the DeMarini Invitational 18U Gold and a top-10 placing at the Colorado Fireworks Tournament ... Is a multi-sport athlete, lettering in volleyball twice as well ... Parents are Donnie and Tracy Rankin ... Plans to focus her studies at the University of Illinois in either sport management or athletic/physical training ... Chose Illinois over offers from Texas Tech, Georgia and the University of South Alabama.

Sullivan on Cheyenne Rankin: "Cheyenne is a no-nonsense player! She is a competitor and someone who brings a high level of expectation to the field for herself and her teammates. Cheyenne hits for power but also has an exciting element of speed in her game. While Coach Donna DiBiase and I were recruiting in Colorado we watched her just go after every pitcher she faced, every pitch she saw. She wasn't playing in Mile High Stadium, but absolutely hit like she should be in a Rockies uniform! The next weekend at a tournament in the suburbs of Chicago I walked up to the field and saw Cheyenne hitting off a tee in between innings of her game with her Mom because she wasn't happy with her at bats at that point. She never settles!"

Paola Softball Head Coach Troy Collier on Cheyenne Rankin: "Cheyenne is a great asset to our team. She is one of the greatest Panthers and has worked extremely hard to get where she is. I am very proud of her and her accomplishments. The Paola coaching staff wishes her the best!"

DeMarini Zephyrs Head Coach Ryan Taylor on Cheyenne Rankin: "Cheyenne will work super hard for the Illini program. She is a special talent with great athleticism. Cheyenne is the type of player that will step up under pressure - she is a gamer! Cheyenne is an extremely motivated and vocal lead - she leads by example on the field."

Katie Repole
Position: Infield
Hometown/High School: Bulverde, Texas/Smithson Valley
High School Coach: Lisa and Wayne Daigle
Travel Team: Texas Bombers Gold
Travel Coach: Scott Smith2012 Illinois softball signee Katie

Notes: Three-time All-Comal County ... Two-time Express News All-Area Team selection ... 2010 Express News Super Team selection ... Smithson Valley earned district titles during Repole's freshman, sophomore and junior seasons ... Batted .456 with five home runs, 36 RBIs and 13 stolen bases during her first year of softball at Smithson Valley ... Followed up her stellar freshman season by hitting .515 with 11 home runs, 44 RBIs and 15 stolen bases as a sophomore before connecting for a .502 batting average with six homers, 40 RBIs and 12 stolen bases as a junior ... Travel team, the Texas Bombers Gold, finished in second at the 2010 Colorado Independence Day Tournament and in the top-20 at the 2010 ASA Gold Nationals and 2011 Premiere Nationals ... Batted .462 with 11 homers and 51 RBIs during the 2011 summer season with the Texas Bombers Gold ... Three-time academic all-district honoree ... Nickname is "Crash" ... Parents are Mary and Brian Repole ... Plans to focus her studies at the University of Illinois in special education ... Chose Illinois over offers from powerhouse Pac-12 and Big 12 Conference programs in Texas, Oklahoma and Washington, in addition to other institutions.

Smithson Valley Softball Head Coach Lisa Daigle: "How can I even sum Katie up? I'm speechless. Katie is the best leader that I have coached. She is the epitome of what hard work, determination, selflessness and integrity are. She has such goodness about her as a person. Katie is nothing less than what a parent could ask for and/or what a coach dreams of in a player. I couldn't hit her enough balls, or pitch her enough batting practice. She always wants more. Katie just wants to play ball."

Texas Bombers Gold Head Coach Scott Smith: Katie "Crash" Repole is one of the toughest softball players out there! For our team and program she sets the standard for us in that area! She plays the game the way it's meant to be played - hardnosed and all-out 100 percent of the time! She blends power, speed and a relentless approach to playing defense. She fits the mold of a University of Illinois softball player!

Jade Smith
Position: Outfield
Hometown/High School: New Braunfels, Texas/New Braunfels
High School Coach: Andy Schmid
Travel Team: Texas Bombers Gold
Travel Coach: Scott Smith2012 Illinois softball signee Jade Smith

Notes: 2011 First Team All-Central Texas, All-Region, San Antonio Super Team and All-Comal County ... Three-time all-district selection ... Batted .555 with 51 stolen bases, 46 runs scored and 20 RBIs for New Braunfels in 2011 ... Helped pace New Braunfels Texas High School 5A Area Championship ... Hit .460 with 42 stolen bases, 42 runs scored and 16 RBIs for the Texas Bombers Gold, while the Bombers finished in the top-20 at the 2011 ASA Gold Nationals and Premiere Nationals ... Three-time academic all-district at New Braunfels ... Parents are Scott and Irma Smith ... Plans to focus her studies at the University of Illinois in communications ... Chose to become an Illini over offers from Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Iowa and additional programs.

Sullivan on Katie Repole and Jade Smith: "It feels like Jade and Katie (Crash) have been a part of our team for some time already! I first saw them play three years ago at a tournament in Texas on a Saturday night, in what was the last game of the day. It was 10pm, cold, and I was five months pregnant. I looked over and saw a team warming up that was very organized and very enthused, so I thought I would watch an inning or so. Jade led off the game with a single on a bunt for hit, stole second, and Katie (Crash) hit a double off the wall to score her, so, I thought, hmmm, this team is decent, these two look pretty good, I will keep watching. Well, they exceeded the "pretty good" evaluation in the rest of that game, the next morning, and ever since!

"Jade and Crash are very charismatic and could become the face of our program, similar to what Dee Brown was to Illinois Basketball! Playing on the same travel ball team for Coach Scott Smith (Jade's Father), we have had the privilege of seeing what they can team up and do to an opponent.

"Jade is a table setter at the plate offensively because of her speed and game smarts. In the outfield, just when you think one of her opponents has a double in the gap, she uses that speed and takes a great angle to the ball to steal what would be a hit against most any other outfielder! She also loves to "have to get on base" for her team, and gets it done at crunch time over and over again. She never stops working on her game, and never puts down her cleats for a break!

"Crash is a wall in the infield, has no fear, and delivers big blows to her opponents when she is up to bat, especially when runners are on base! She knows the game, loves the "big game" and will not stop asking our staff about what she needs to work on to take her game to an even higher level than it is already at. Her maturity and leadership skills are unparalleled for a high school senior, and she can't arrive here soon enough!"

New Braunfels Softball Head Coach Andy Schmid on Jade Smith: "You are getting a hard worker and a great leader. She is a Player that goes 100 % all the time and gives you everything that she has. Jade has a lot of speed and is dangerous. A great kid in the class room and a great kid to have on the team because people rally around Jade because of her work ethic and never quit attitude"

Texas Bombers Gold Head Coach Scott Smith on Jade Smith: "Jade brings a ton of speed to the game in both areas. Her ability to run on offense makes her a threat to score and steal bases every time she is on base. On defense, her ability to cover ground in the outfield and take away hits really gave our team an advantage!"

Danielle Trezzo
Position: Infield/Outfield2012 Illinois softball signee Danielle Trezzo
Hometown/High School: Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove
High School Coach: Ron Havelka
Travel Team: Bartlett Silverhawks 18U
Travel Coach: Brad Dennison

Notes: Two-time West Suburban Gold All-Conference ... Two-time Reporter All-Area, 2010 Daily Herald DuPage Valley and Bugle All-Area ... Led Downers Grove to conference championships in 2010-11, reaching the Illinois 4A State Sweet Sixteen (2011) and Elite Eight (2010), with Downers Grove earning 58 wins combined during the 2010-11 seasons ... Scored 42 runs and earned 38 RBIs to go with eight homers, eight doubles and three triples during junior season after scoring 40 runs, driving in 44 more and connecting for 12 homers and nine doubles as a sophomore at Downers Grove ... Finished fifth (2010-11) ninth (2009-10) at the NSA "A" Nationals as a member of the 2009-10 Downers Grove Outlaws 18U travel team ... Downers Grove Honor Roll member in every semester ... 2011 IHSA Scholastic Achievement Award ... Parents are Joe and Lori Trezzo ... Plans to focus her studies at the University of Illinois in sports management ... Chose to join the Orange and Blue over a number of other offers, including Northern Illinois.

Sullivan on Danielle Trezzo: "Danielle was signed up to come to one of our camps and unfortunately had an injury that prevented her from participating, so she signed up for another one. At that camp we had a competition called "quick release" between campers. I always watch closely to not only see who wins competitions, but also, who really cares about winning and competing. After her and her partner completed the drill, she immediately turned to see if they had won and they did. We love competitors who love to win and hate to lose! She is that type of competitor. Danielle has great bat speed; the ball really explodes off of her bat, and she is versatile defensively."

Downers Grove Softball Head Coach Ron Havelka on Danielle Trezzo: "Danielle is truly an Illini! Her great workmanship and passion for the game has helped her to improve every season. She is extremely competitive and is always the first person to arrive at practice. Offensively, she has great bat speed and power, and comes up big under pressure. Defensively, her athleticism and arm strength makes her very versatile. Danielle has been a great asset to Downers Grove and will definitely be a great addition to the Illini program."

Bartlett Silverhawks Head Coach Brad Dennison on Danielle Trezzo: "Danielle is a five-tool player. I have great respect for her as a person and as a player, as she has great character. Danielle is a smart athlete who has the ability to pick up advanced concepts quickly and her competitive nature, positive attitude and work ethic make her a great leader for us!"

Terri Sullivan "Chalk Talk" - Important factors in the recruitment for the 2012 class

Sullivan on how the 2012 class fills Illinois' needs: "Offensively, the need was great power and speed. Defensively, we wanted athletic players with the ability to play multiple positions. We knew it was going to be hard to replace the power production of two four-year starters in Kelley Wedel and All-American Meredith Hackett as well as the versatility and speed of Danielle Vaji and Nikki Simpson. Ultimately, this class has more power, more speed and represents greater defensive versatility."

Sullivan on the recruiting pipeline to Texas: "First and foremost, our philosophy is to recruit the best student-athletes regardless of where that leads us geographically. This class has great players from California, Kansas, Texas and Illinois - specifically Chicago and Kankakee within our home state. We have enjoyed several great players in our program that hail from Texas. Certainly, Jade and Katie have the ability and potential to be the best ever. There is a recipe: build strong relationships, get in early, find a good academic fit, have a great family support system and play an ultra-competitive national schedule. Our biggest reason for continued success has been the family atmosphere that recruits feel when they visit campus and spend time with our team."

Sullivan on the importance of a winning background: "At Illinois we have a saying, `Winners Win.' I believe kids that have won on several levels have a way about them, a swagger or high level of confidence. I also believe that is contagious. We want student-athletes who are energetic and enthusiastic, positive and motivated, hardworking and big dreamers. Each young lady in this class has enjoyed great athletic success, individually and as part of a team. I think that bodes well for this program, because winners win!"

Sullivan on how this recruiting class ranks in comparison to previous classes: "Each class is unique based on what the needs are for that year. If you look at power, this group is special. Looking at speed and at defensive skills, they are also special. This group has exceptional leadership abilities and chemistry. So yes, we have high expectations for this group. Ranking classes is a lot like asking a parent to rank their kids. Of course, my dad would say his favorite child was whoever buys the best Christmas gifts."

Sullivan on the significance of the Big Ten Network: "I can't say enough good things about the BTN and the positive impact it has had on our program, both financially and exposure-wise. Families from all across the country love being able to watch our team play - not just parents, but grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors, high school coaches and friends. Also, the increased media exposure has been a great learning experience for our players."