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Softball: Jenna Hall returned home to coach Ohio

For most coaches, their first head coaching job is special, but uncharted territory. For current Ohio coach Jenna Hall, a reunion with Ohio after four years as an assistant was the best job she could've asked for.

Hall's love of Softball and her unique skillset was apparent from day one of her playing career at Illinois. In her first season with the Illini, Hall was named to the All-Big Ten first-team. By the end of her career, Hall finished with a record .357 batting average and a .580 slugging percentage.

Hall had four All-Big Ten first-team selections and three All-Region selections. Hall particularly shined in her senior year, where she finished with a single-season record that still stands today, a .481 batting average. Hall finished top 5 nationally in slugging, batting average and walks that season, and was a finalist for the USA Softball Player of the Year award. For her achievements, Hall was inducted into the Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019 and was able to play professionally for the Philadelphia Force.

Hall knew her playing career couldn't last forever, but was also uncertain about her future. In her professional career, Hall realized the importance of coaching.

"When I was able to play professionally, I got to be surrounded by some really fantastic Softball players in the world, but also some really good coaches," Hall said. "I learned a lot, and so one thing I picked up, was that there are so many ways to teach this game and so many ways to play it, and so I think I was inspired to know that there's so much more out there. And then that combined with giving back. Softball gave me so much in my life, so being part of that for somebody else is really important to me."

After Hall made up her mind, she got her first experience as an assistant coach at Ohio. Under Hall and current Pitt head coach Jodi Hermanek, the Bobcats finished with a 52-32 record in Mid-American Conference play. During her time at Ohio, Hall learned a lot about what makes Athens special.

"I think the biggest thing for me was the community," Hall said. "I feel like people here support each other. They love being here, they want to be here, and I feel like that's an atmosphere as a Head Coach that I want to be around."

Hall moved on to be an assistant coach at Ohio State, where several different Buckeyes excelled as hitters during her seven-season tenure as an assistant. Hall helped coach several Buckeyes to record-setting seasons, including all-time hits leader Cammi Prantl and Lilli Piper, the first Buckeye to go for 20 home runs in a single season. Piper went on to play professionally and is now part of Ohio's staff while playing for Athletes Unlimited.

Hall then moved to Pitt, where she again coached with Hermanek. Once again, Hall's proficiency at developing players into elite-level hitters continued. Three Panthers hit above .300 during the 2022 season, including Yvonne Whaley, who finished the season with a .344 batting average, and was named to the All-ACC third team.

Despite Hall's high level of play in her own right as a player at Illinois, the secret to her hitters' success is their mentality.

"I know a lot of coaches who weren't always the best players, but it's a learning thing," Hall said. "It's a skill to teach, and so I think the mentality piece comes in handy a lot when it comes to having played at the highest level and been successful. I think I can give them the right headspace."

After ten years of coaching at Power 5 schools as an assistant, Hall received the call to come back to Ohio, but this time as the head coach. The history of Ohio's program and the culture around the team made it an easy decision for Hall.

"This place always left such a big impression on me, and I've always had a lot of love for Athens, and being a Bobcat in this community," Hall said. "So to start my head coaching career here, I don't think I could've picked a better place, it just feels like home and I'm just really happy to be here."


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