The University of Northern Iowa softball head coach Ryan Jacobs has announcing the signing of nine student-athletes as part of the 2016 recruiting class. The class includes five signees from the state of Iowa along with two from Missouri, one from Oklahoma and Illinois.

“We are so excited about the class of 2016 recruits,” said UNI Panthers Head Coach Ryan Jacobs. “There are some big shoes to fill from this year’s senior class, and we have some unbelievable talent to do it. The one thing they all have in common is the desire to compete and win at the highest level. Much like 2015 this class has tremendous versatility with most of them having the ability to play two or three positions on the field. On and off the field, all of them have a tremendous drive to achieve their goals and willing to work extra to achieve them. It’s a perfect fit for UNI Softball.”

“I also want to recognize yet another tremendous job our entire staff has done recruiting this year. Like every year, there has been lots of travel and time away from family. Our staff has been very dedicated and committed to the recruiting process. When student athletes see the level of passion, loyalty, and desire our staff has it is something they want to be a part of. The efforts of Coach Gerdes, it couldn’t happen this way without her dedication and passion for UNI Softball. The loyalty and sacrifice of Coach Egger, is what makes our program strong.”

Jaclyn Spencer - Pitcher/Outfield/First Base - Waterloo, Iowa/Waterloo West
A four-year letter winner at Waterloo West High School, Jaclyn Spencer was named first-team all-state and the Mississippi Valley Conference Player of the Year as a junior. Spencer was named to the Des Moines Register Girls’ Softball Elite All-State Team last season after batting .538 and adding 50 RBI. At Waterloo West, Spencer has been named first-team all-conference three seasons, first-team all-metro four times, and been named to an all-state team three times. Spencer also lettered in basketball and track, where she has qualified for the state track meet three times. Spencer is a member of the National Honor Society and was named the Waterloo West Student Body Vice President as a junior.

“Jaci emerged as one of the best players in the state early in her high school career as a freshman,” said Jacobs. “She has been a local standout since she came on the scene as an 8th grader. We have been able to follow her growth as an athlete all the way. She has tremendous athletic ability and natural skills that will help her adjust very quickly at the next level. Jaci has great hand-eye coordination, is a very consistent hitter, and has very good speed that will allow her to be very versatile in our program. Her versatility on defense as a left-handed pitcher, outfielder, and playing first base is huge for our team depth. She is also one of the best teammates out there.”
Ashley Chesser - Catcher/Third Base/First Base - Broken Arrow, Okla.
A four-year letter winner and four time academic all-conference honoree at Broken Arrow High School (Okla.), Ashley Chesser helped guide her team to the state championship game in the 2014 fast pitch season. In 2015, Chesser was part of the Broken Arrow HS team that was crowned slow pitch state champions in 2015. A member of the National Honor Society, Chesser is also involved in Club Interact and Key Club.

“Ashley is a very polished middle of the lineup hitter from the left side of the plate,” said Jacobs. “She can hit for power and hit for high average. Everything she does with the bat is consistent and efficient. Defensively she can handle a pitching staff and throw out runners behind the plate, along with play a very solid third and first base.”
Adara Opiola - Third Base/Utility - Coralville, Iowa
A three-year starter at third base for Iowa City West, Adara Opiola has set multiple single season offensive records for the Little Hawks. Opiola holds the single season records for home runs with eight, RBI (52), walks (32), on-base percentage (.635), slugging percentage (.891) and batting average (.509). At Iowa City West, Opiola holds the career records for home runs with 21, on-base percentage (.555), slugging percentage (.766) and batting average (.460). A two-time first-team all-state honoree, Opiola was named the Mississippi Valley Conference Player of the Year in 2014. A member of the National Honor Society, Opiola has been on the High Honor Roll all nine trimesters.

“Adara is a hardnosed player with tremendous passion for the game,” said Jacobs. “Defensively she has good quickness, very strong arm, and great glove. A standout high school player at 3B, she may find herself at some new positions to get her bat in the lineup. At the plate, she is a very strong hitter with great power to all fields and hits for a high average.”
Jenny Kohl - Infield/Outfield - Glencoe, Mo.
Named the Missouri/Illinois All-Star game MVP in 2015, Jenny Kohl started four years for Lafayette High School (Mo.) as an infielder. Kohl was named to the all-district team in 2015 while being named all-conference four times. She was recognized as the team MVP in 2015 and the athlete of the month in September. Kohl ranks third at Lafayette High School in career batting average (.379), fourth in on-base percentage (.431), hits (100), and fifth in slugging percentage (.523). Kohl also was a four year starter as a point guard on the basketball team and was named the team MVP in 2015 after being named to the all-district squad. A member of the National Honor Society, Kohl was recognized as a Gold Scholar Athlete in 2015 with a 4.0 GPA.

“Jenny is a very athletic player,” said Jacobs. “She has speed, strong arm, hits for high average, has great hands, and plays for a program that knows how to win. Jenny can play almost every position on the field that will fit in very well with our current roster. Jenny is the type of player that will hold everything together filling a need at any position in the infield or outfield and playing it at a very high level.”

McKenzie Sancken - Infield/Outfield - Spring Grove, Ill.
A three-year starter for Grant Community High School (Ill.), McKenzie Sancken helped the Bulldogs to their first conference championship in 23 years as a freshman. She tallied a .410 batting average her first three years while leading the team in extra base hits and total bases. Sancken was named all-conference three times while being named team co-MVP as a sophomore and team MVP as a junior. She was named to the Chicago All-Star team that played at the Chicago Bandits stadium. Sancken also played basketball for two years and has shown AQHA horses since 2005.

“Kenzi is a true utility player who plays consistently in every position on the infield and in the outfield,” said Jacobs. “She has a quick release, great mechanics, and very strong arm. At the plate she has huge power potential and ability to drive in runs. She is sneaky quick on the bases and puts pressure on defenses with her instincts on the bases. I know this kid can’t wait to put on a UNI Panther uniform.”
Brittney Roby - Outfield - Knoxville, Iowa
Brittney Roby was named to the NJCAA First-Team All-American squad after her first season at Des Moines Area Community College in 2015. Roby was also earned the Division II Softball Marucci Elite Hitting Award while helping the Bears to the NJCAA World Series and being named to the all-tournament team. Named a first-team All-American by the National Fastpitch Coaches Assocation, Roby was honored as the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference Player of the Year after posting a .582 batting average with a team-leading 31 doubles. Roby was named first-team All-Region XI by the NJCAA and to the All-Midwest Region team by the NFCA. She was also named first-team Academic All-Region in 2015. At Twin Cedars High School, Roby earned first-team all-state honors five times.

“Brittney is a fierce competitor and will bring a huge sense of toughness to the UNI Softball Program,” said Jacobs. “Along with her toughness she brings speed and a very strong bat. From the left side of the plate she can play the short game with the best of them, and has developed into a power hitter as well. She is able to put pressure on the defense in many ways. In a very young outfield she will also bring experience playing two seasons for great coaches and highly competitive team at DMACC.”
Sammey Bunch - Shortstop - Bonnots Mill, Mo.
A four-year starter for Fatima High School (Mo.), Sammey Bunch posted a .696 batting average in 2015 while helping her team to a second place finish in the state. A shortstop, Bunch was named first-team all-conference, first-team all-district, and first-team all-region four times. She was named first-team all-state for the third time in 2015 and was recognized as the Show Me Conference MVP in 2015 and 2013. In 2014, Bunch tallied a .522 batting average while helping her team to a state title. Bunch has set multiple records at Fatima High School, where she ranks atop the single season record book in runs scored (63), hits (71), homeruns (13), triples (8), and stolen bases (42). She also holds multiple career records, leading her high school in eight career statistical categories including hits (202), homeruns (20), stolen bases (92), and doubles (49). Bunch holds multiple Missouri State High School Athletic Association records, recording the most hits, total bases, and extra base hits in a season while posting a state-best .718 career on-base percentage. She also lettered in basketball and was named first-team all-district and first-team all-region in 2015. A three-year member of the National Honor Society.

“Sammey is a very dedicated passionate softball player,” said Jacobs. “Along with her passion for the game she is very athletic and is able to play anywhere the team needs her. Sammey has proved she is one of the best hitters from the state of Missouri, and also has showed a tremendous work ethic on and off the field. We are very excited about Sammey’s potential and what she can bring to the Panther Softball Program.”
Tianna Drahn - Outfield - Cedar Rapids, Iowa
A first-team All-Metro honoree in 2015, Tianna Drahn was also named to the all-conference first-team and all-East District first-team for Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School in 2015. Drahn was named second-team all-state in 2015 and third-team all state in 2014. She earned her first-team all-conference and first-team all-district honors for the first time as a sophomore in 2014 while being named second-team all-metro in 2013. Drahn has made the Honor Roll of Excellence four times at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School.

“Tianna will add another dimension of speed to our team in the outfield and at the plate,” said Jacobs. “She is a very smooth and efficient hitter from the left side of the plate. She is very savvy playing the short game offensively, but can also drive in runs when needed. She has the potential to be a great table setter for our offense and create lots of pressure for opposing defenses.”
Olivia Brooks - Outfield - Ankeny, Iowa
Named first-team All-Central Iowa Metro League in 2015, Olivia Brooks tallied 63 hits with a .441 batting average in her junior season for Ankeny High School while helping the Hawks return to the state tournament. At the state tournament, Brooks ranked top five in batting average, hits, RBI, total bases, and stolen bases. A three-year starter, Brooks was named to the All-CIML second-team in 2014 after leading the team in hits with 50. In 2013, she helped the Hawks to a third place finish at the state tournament. Also lettered in track three times, where she qualified for state twice and the Drake Relays once. A member of the student council for two years, Brooks has been involved in the Ankeny Miracle League while receiving All-CIML All-Academic honors.

“Olivia has been one of the top hitters at Ankeny for three years,” said Jacobs. “She is a smooth lefty with great hand eye coordination. She is also very athletic and has great speed for playing the outfield. She is a leader on her high school team Ankeny, which has been a fixture at the Iowa High School State Tournament recently.”