Jenna Ball grew up trying to emulate everything her older sister Susie did.
Now a senior at USF, Jenna would love to accomplish what Susie did as a sophomore in 2000 when she won an NCAA Soccer Championship at the University of North Carolina.
Heading into its 11th season, the USF women’s soccer program is looking for its first NCAA Tournament appearance. Jenna has seen first hand what is necessary to be part of a successful team and hopes to lead USF to that goal.
“Watching Susie play has really motivated me to play well,” Jenna said. “She has the championship ring and wears it all the time. I’m really proud of her and what she has accomplished.”
Only three years separate the two sisters, who have a healthy sibling rivalry. Jenna, a defender, takes pride in trying to stop her sister, who played midfield. Growing up, the two had daily matches in their backyard.
“We are both really competitive so when we played each other, we went all out,” Jenna said. “Neither of us held back. We would take each other out, trip each other – everything. It was good because it made us both better players.”
The two sisters were teammates during Jenna’s freshman year at Tampa Bay Tech. Susie graduated and went on to UNC, while Jenna distinguished herself as one of the elite players in Florida.
“Jenna is really quick and athletic; those are her best features,” Susie said. “She is a really great team player and rarely makes mistakes. She is so focused.”
During her high school career, Jenna was named captain three times and team MVP once. As a senior, she led her team to the district finals for the first time in school history.
Her accomplishments didn’t go unnoticed. UNC coach Anson Dorrance tried to recruit her to a program that has won 18 of the 25 National Championships in NCAA women’s collegiate soccer history.
“(Jenna) has great athleticism and skill,” Dorrance said. “We felt that she could have a tremendous impact up here; she’s a very good player.”
Instead of joining Susie at UNC, Jenna opted to play for the University of South Carolina, seeking more playing time. But after seeing limited action in two seasons, Jenna decided to return home and play for USF in 2005.
Bulls coach Logan Fleck openly welcomed Jenna to his team and feels she has taken a leadership role during her two seasons at USF.
“Jenna has a very calming influence on our team,” Fleck said. “She brings a great work ethic; she works hard day in and day out. She’s a great leader for our team.”
As one of two senior defenders on the team, Jenna feels it is her responsibility to take the Bulls to the next level.
“I’ve taken a leadership role for the team,” Jenna said. “I don’t speak up that much, but I try to lead by example. I encourage everyone to work hard in practice by showing my work ethic.”
Leadership is one of the key attributes Durrance looks for when recruiting. As one of the most successful coaches in NCAA history, he believes Jenna’s attitude is a major asset for a young team like USF.
“What most people don’t appreciate on the field is leadership,” Dorrance said. “Often talent is overvalued and leadership is undervalued. I really feel leadership is the unsung hero in any teams’ championship success.”
While the Bulls have stumbled as of late with three straight losses, Fleck feels this year’s team is special. He set a goal of winning the Big East and would love to see this team make the post season.
“Making the NCAA’s (tournament) is exactly what I want for all of our seniors,” Fleck said. “I have a special place in my heart for (Jenna) because I’ve known her for so long. Seeing her and all of the seniors in the NCAA’s would be special because we would be the first group to do it. And you can never be first again.”
Both Jenna and Susie feel the same way.
“Being in the tournament would mean the world to her,” Susie said. “That is one thing she has worked so hard for and I would give anything for her to make it.”
“Making the NCAA’s would be a terrific accomplishment,” Jenna said. “It’d be a perfect end for me here.”