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Tribune Top Five Female Athletes No. 5: Jenna Core

Duncan MacLean • Jul 6, 2018 at 4:00 AM

The Tribune is counting down our top five male and female athletes, as well as teams for the 2017-18 season. Our No. 5 female athlete is Spring Lake's Jenna Core.

A pair of school records on the diamond and two productive seasons in the gym earned Core a spot on our countdown this year. As a junior, Core helped lead the volleyball team to a 30-6 season this fall, as a dominant outside hitter and their emotional glue on the court. She then served as the all-around muscle on the Lakers' basketball team and finally wielded the biggest of Spring Lake softball's wealth of big bats this spring.

Her exploits on all three playing fields earned her three All-Conference awards, as well as All-District and All-Region honors for softball, while her winning attitude through it all has earned her the honor of serving all three teams as a captain next season.

Swinging for the fences

Core's power and athleticism were put on full display as a left fielder and tremendous plate threat on the Spring Lake softball team. The team finished the season at 40-1 overall, securing a school record for wins in a season. On the way, they took home conference, district and regional titles before falling in the state quarterfinals.

Individually, Core earned a few spots in the Laker record book, as well. Her 11 home runs on the season broke the single-season record, previously held by Core, who belted nine in her varsity debut season. Her two record-breaking seasons added up early in 2018, as she motored past the career mark of 16 bombs, going on to finish the season with 25 to her name.

The long-ball expertise boosted a .433 batting average and sent home 44 RBIs for the season, earning the junior All-Conference, District and Regional honors.

"We really didn't see her home run hitting coming," said Jenna's father and varsity softball coach Bill Core. "She never was really a power hitter growing up. A lot of it, I think, is her leverage with her long arms and she has a bit of an uppercut swing. She never goes out there looking for home runs, just solid contact.

"As a coach, it certainly was nice. She scored a lot of runs for us. As a dad, it is really fun to see. She has gained a lot of confidence at the plate. At home, she gets some heckling from her brothers about the shorter fences, and that is fun, too.

"She is a pretty nice kid off the court, but when that competitive mode kicks in, she plays with a chip on her shoulder."

Killing the game

Core kicked off her 2017-18 athletic campaign on the hardwood, helping lead the Spring Lake volleyball team to 30 wins and an O-K Blue Conference Championship. While their playoff run was cut short with a district tournament loss to Fruitport, Core's impact through a dominant regular season can't be ignored.

As an outside hitter, Core was the top option for a well-oiled Laker attack, leading the team in kills with a whopping 288 on the season. Her always versatile game allowed her to serve the team throughout their rotation, as well. Her 288 digs ranked second on the team and her 33 aces were also near the top of the roster.

"Jenna is one of those athletes that I always describe as a leader by example," Spring Lake head volleyball coach Cassidy Hazekamp said. "She has the skills on the court and a great attitude. She gets it done in the classroom. That is why she served us as a captain as only a junior.

"She works very hard and plays volleyball all year round. She just finished up playing at nationals in Orlando with her club team, along with four other Lakers. I know when Jenna walks into the gym, I have 100 percent of volleyball Jenna. She is so coachable. I can critique her and rather than take offense, she asks follow-up questions and that pays off in kills.

"She also serves as an emotional leader on the court for us. She is somebody that can keep everyone even-keeled with her calm demeanor and get the girls fired up when we need a run. That was especially valuable to this past year's team. We needed her out there to keep everyone chill.

"She is a coach's dream."

Balling out

Core's role from the volleyball season transitions seamlessly when the nets come down in November. On the basketball court, her hard work translates to consistent, versatile play and her athletic instincts make for a formidable forward. Over the 2017-18 season, she averaged 9.3 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game, all while shooting 72.6 percent from the free-throw line.

Core's length makes her a natural paint presence, eating up rebounds on both offense and defense, while drawing trips to the free throw line after taking contested shots. On top of that, intentional practice and dedication have unlocked a lethal jump shot, opening up the floor for her teammates to go to work.

"We have incredible ball handlers, shooters, rebounders and lockdown defenders. Jenna does it all," said head basketball coach Cavin Mohrhardt. "She is so coachable and is basketball smart and knows how to use that to her advantage. She has good height and is a good shooter. When you put that with her basketball sense and court awareness, she becomes a very complete player.

"She is one of those girls that I had a hard time taking out, even when she was tired. She was so consistent. Her role was to do a little bit of everything. She had a little bit of everything, specialty wise, and she was there to pick up the slack if anyone needed help.

"I think the obvious point is that the girls on all of her teams respect her. She has really come out of her shell and has always been a leader by example. She isn't going to get in anyone's face, but when she takes the court, people follow her work ethic and the way she plays."

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