Two state championships, a verbal commitment to the University of Oregon as a sophomore, and drive and determination that won’t quit are only a few of the thoughts that come to mind upon mentioning the name Jenna Lilley.
Lilley, a junior softball player at North Canton Hoover High School, began playing softball at the age of four. Her travel ball career began in 2004, when she began playing for the Ohio Slammers, and continued with a move to play for the Beverly Bandits, an Illinois-based fastpitch softball team.
“I love good competition,” Lilley said. “I love making lifelong friendships with my teammates, and I love that it is a team sport and that you all work together.”
Outside of travel ball, Lilley continues to be a driving force for her high school softball team. With two back-to-back state championships her freshman and sophomore years, she looks to continue the winning streak.
“My ultimate goal [for high school] would be to have a three-peat state championship,” Lilley said. “My goal for my travel team is to win the National Championship out in California, and that is really realistic. I’ve never played with such a talented group of girls, and I think this is our year. We’ve gotten 3rd and 5th the last two years, so I think we have a good shot.”
With a strong record behind her, her name grew popular among college softball programs, and in November 2011, Lilley took advantage by verbally committing to play for the University of Oregon after her senior year.
“It was everything I wanted and I knew that it was right,” Lilley said. “The moment I heard they were interested, I got really excited. When I found out I got the offer, I wanted it even more, and then the second I stepped on campus I just got this really good vibe and I knew that was where I really wanted to go. I’ve wanted to play in the PAC-12 ever since I started playing.”
With a recruiting process that started during the middle of her freshman year, Lilley is glad that she decided where she wanted to go so early on.
“The whole recruiting process is really stressful,” Lilley said. “Once I committed, it was like ‘alright now I can just focus on playing and not getting looked at by schools, so I can just focus more on playing’. That was such a big stress relief. Once you have everything figured out and know where you’re going, it makes everything a lot less stressful.”
But even with all of these accomplishments, she remains humble, acknowledging that without the help of others, she would not have gotten where she is today.
“My hitting really took off with [Taylor Schlopy], especially in the summer,” Lilley said. “She completely changed probably what would have happened. I don’t know if I would be going to Oregon if it wasn’t for Taylor. So it is very awesome to have those opportunities available to me.
“Now that Taylor got a job at OU and since they’re NCAA I can’t technically work with her because of rules, so I’ve been working with Bri Hesson. I’ll send her hitting footage, and she’ll tell me what to work on. We communicate a lot. She’s really helped me out a lot with my mental game and just mechanics and other different things to work on.”
In addition to the individual players who helped teach her, she also feels a sense of pride for one of the softball teams that mold her into the player that she is today, the Akron Racers. “Being able to grow up watching [the Akron Racers], I feel as though I’ve been watching some of the best players in the world basically playing in my backyard,” Lilley said. “I feel very fortunate just to have that so close because there are only four teams. I’m very fortunate to live so close to one of them. Just being able to watch and kind of mimic what their best player’s do I think has helped me a lot with my style of play.”