It didn't take Mallory Kilian long to feel right at home with the University of Northern Iowa softball team.
Fort Dodge's first team all-stater verbally committed to head coach Ryan Jacobs' Panther program this week, solidifying her college plans early with two full seasons of prep softball still ahead.
''I'm very excited - and very relieved,'' said Kilian, who just started her junior year at FDSH. ''It was kind of love at first sight when I made my visit (to UNI). I liked the coaches right away and felt super comfortable there immediately.
Messenger file photo
Fort Dodge's Mallory Kilian hits during a game last season at Rogers Park.
''The campus isn't too big or too small, and I enjoy the (Cedar Falls-Waterloo) area. It just seems like a great fit for me, and I'm very appreciative of this opportunity (to play at the Div. I level).''
Already a three-time letterwinner with head coach Andi Adams and the Dodgers, Kilian batted .437 as a sophomore with seven home runs, 10 doubles, 41 RBI and a 16-7 pitching record. Kilian's career record in the circle is 40-25, which included two regional victories over Top-10 opponents that advanced Fort Dodge to the state tournament during her eighth-grade campaign.
''Mallory has grown physically and mentally into a terrific all-around softball player,'' Adams said. ''She's put a lot of time and effort into the game and really complemented her natural ability with a strong work ethic.
''The next step is to lead her team and the program even more, both vocally and by example. It's gradually happened as she's settled in (at the varsity level). I'm excited to see what Mallory and the other (2014) juniors and seniors will accomplish, because there's already a lot of great chemistry there. It's a close group.''
Kilian will officially sign a letter of intent late next fall.
''I just want to keep getting better and working hard,'' Kilian said of her goals as a Dodger upperclassman. ''Being a first team all-state (selection) was very special - I was honored. Now, I have to not only sustain that but take it a step further.
''I hope to have (individual success) from here on out, but more importantly, I want to help our program get back (to state) and achieve as much as possible (in the next two years). If I do that as a teammate and a leader, (the accolades) will be there.''
Northern Iowa, a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, went 27-26 overall last spring. Jacobs has six years under his belt with the Panthers, who won the MVC regular season title in 2012 with a 21-5 league record and 38-16 overall mark.