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Kiana Sherlund finds a new home in Champaign

Illinois%E2%80%99+Kiana+Sherlund+is+introduced+against+Purdue+on+April+8%2C+2017.+The+team+discusses+the+bond+formed+between+the+players+as+they+travel+on+buses+and+on+planes+for+games.
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Kiana Sherlund finds a new home in Champaign

Illinois’ Kiana Sherlund is introduced against Purdue on April 8, 2017. The team discusses the bond formed between the players as they travel on buses and on planes for games.

Illinois’ Kiana Sherlund is introduced against Purdue on April 8, 2017. The team discusses the bond formed between the players as they travel on buses and on planes for games.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Kiana Sherlund is introduced against Purdue on April 8, 2017. The team discusses the bond formed between the players as they travel on buses and on planes for games.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Kiana Sherlund is introduced against Purdue on April 8, 2017. The team discusses the bond formed between the players as they travel on buses and on planes for games.

By Erich Fisher, Staff writer

A season ago, sophomore Kiana Sherlund was playing for the team she had always dreamed of being on since her sophomore year of high school: the North Carolina Tar Heels.

But after her first season, Sherlund found herself looking for a new school to play college softball.

About 725 miles away in Champaign, word spread of Sherlund’s release from North Carolina, and Illinois softball head coach Tyra Perry showed immediate interest in the outfielder.

“I know her travel coach really well, and he told me she had gotten a release, so I let him know that we were looking for outfielders,” Perry said.

“From there, we were able to get a release from her institution and speak to her.”

Sherlund’s first conversation with Perry didn’t go as she planned.

She had just left a Washington Nationals game with her family when she called Perry.

At the time, she was hugging the corner of the back seat of her family’s packed car, talking in a muffled manner to make sure no one could hear her.

When the two finally sat down in person with each other, things began clicking right away.

“She shared her Meyers-Briggs assessment (personality type test) with me, and we were only a letter apart, so we were really similar. From there, we just clicked,” Sherlund said. “We speak the same language.”

When Sherlund first arrived on campus, she immediately had her teammates doing everything they could to make her more comfortable with her unfamiliar environment.

Half the team was texting her, asking if she needed any help moving or settling in.

She said it was incredible to see the amount of support she received from her teammates right off the bat.

In her first practice, Sherlund had a little bit of a reality check. There was more sprinting involved in practices, which she was not expecting.

Whether it is between innings or just going from one batting cage to another at practice, Sherlund was not quite aware sprinting everywhere was a requirement.

It didn’t take long for Sherlund to get well-acquainted with her teammates.

Senior Nicole Evans has already become close with the sophomore from Fairfax, Virginia.

“She is really goofy if you get to know her, but definitely in a good way. We got to know each other pretty well, especially when she started playing center,” Evans said.

“We talk all the time; we’ll be in the outfield and she’ll be like, ‘Hey Nic, have you heard this song before?’ and just random stuff like that. She keeps it light and fun in the outfield.”

In her first game wearing an Illinois uniform, Sherlund was leading off against the team which she had played 49 games for — primarily as a pinch runner — just a season before.

“We expected (Sherlund to be emotional or nervous) maybe, but she was just a professional,” Perry said.

“She came out and played great softball, and that’s when we really got to see the depth of her talent from that first day and first game.”

Sherlund had all positive things to say about her former team, which she had not spoken to since it was eliminated in the NCAA tournament the previous year.

“It was definitely fun seeing them, and I’m glad that we won both games against them,” Sherlund said.

“I wasn’t as nervous this time. I completely have faith in this team no matter who’s on the field in what position; we have each other’s backs.”

After only recording three hits in 25 at-bats at North Carolina, Sherlund is currently batting .356 and has recorded 45 hits while in the leadoff spot for the Illini this season.

She also came up big for Illinois in its win over No. 7 Minnesota on April 1.

Sherlund drove in the first run for the Illini and scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Both Perry and Evans agree that Sherlund has brought speed and athleticism to the field for Illinois while also bringing a positive energy to the team off the field.

From what she has experienced so far this season with her new team, Sherlund has nothing but praise to hand out to them.

“This team is something special,” Sherlund said.

“I remember getting together with the other transfers and just thinking, this is it. This is why we came here.”

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@ETFisher24

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