Illinois softball introduces second head coach in program history

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  • Tyra Perry, head coach of the Illinois softball team, addresses the media at a press conference on Thursday, June 25.

  • Tyra Perry, Illinois’ head softball coach, poses in her new Illini gear at Eichelberger Field after a press conference on Thursday, June 25.

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By Daniel Collins

Tyra Perry believes collective leadership and small
ball are vital aspects to success on the softball field. 

Perry replaces Terry Sullivan, who retired earlier
this month, as the head coach of the Illinois softball team.

The Illini finished last season short of a NCAA
Regional appearance, closing out the year with a loss to Purdue in the first game of the Big Ten
Tournament by a score of 3-2.

So how does Perry plan on getting the Illini over the
hump?

For starters, she will attempt to boaster her pitching
staff.

“My brand of softball is pretty offensive-oriented,”
Perry said. “We obviously also emphasize defense, but one of the main things my
staff and I are going to attack immediately stems from the circle. If you look
at the national stage, all of those programs have quality pitching.”

Sophomore Jade Vecvanags was Illinois’ ace last season. She went 19-12 with an ERA of 4.86 in 39 appearances.
Sophomore Breanna Wonderly, the team’s No.2 pitcher, went 2-8 in 26 appearances
with an ERA of 6.45. 

Perry also emphasized the importance of speed.

“Speed never goes into a slump,” she said. “Your power
hitters, at times, may miss a little bit. They swing big to win big, but your
table setters, your speed kids, kind of keep things going. That would be one
major area that I would hope to bring along with the already talented hitters.”

Junior Kylie Johnson led the team with 13 stolen bases
in 17 attempts. Sophomore Alyssa Gunther was second with five swiped bags in
seven attempts.  

So far, Perry has only seen statistics and footage of
her newly-acquired squad. But when they meet, she will assess her players’
attitudes and leadership abilities.

“Leadership is an undeniable aspect of a championship
program and a championship team,” she said. “If you have leadership in the
program, it just makes things a lot easier. If you have kids that are
self-motivated, that can police themselves and can hold themselves accountable,
it just works and it breeds success.”

Perry plans to form a “leadership council” with her
players made up of four different groups. Those council groups will
focus on guiding the team’s academics, nutrition, social media and personal
brand.

The veteran coach said every player must earn their
role on the team, regardless of their class rank or previous contributions.

Perry’s coaching assistants have yet to be chosen.

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