Female athlete of the month Orner digs new role at CCU

If the old adage “defense wins championships” holds true, it is no wonder that Coastal Carolina brought in a defensive specialist from Jacksonville University.

For sophomore transfer Jenna Orner, the change to Coastal Carolina volleyball re-ignited a passion that she has for the game. Her dynamic performance in 2012 earned her the Hampton Inn Oceanfront Myrtle Beach/Grand Strand Sports Report Female Athlete of the Month for November.

“It really opened my eyes when I came to Coastal. I am so much happier here. I feel really blessed. I think it helped transform our team playing good competition early,” Orner said about the move to CCU. “Being here at Coastal has helped me to regain a love for volleyball. I enjoy being at Coastal with my coaches and teammates.”

When it came time to shine in the past month in big games against UNC-Asheville and Liberty University, Orner had her defensive prowess at the highest level. Against UNCA, she had 14 digs, and against Liberty in the Big South Championship, she led both teams with 21 digs.

“I think that my best game personally peaked at the end of the season against UNC-Asheville and Liberty,” said Orner. “We were all so pumped to play in the Big South Championship. Mentally, we were just ready to go. We were ready to do anything to get the win.”

In the other four games in November, the results were about the similarly strong on defense for Orner. She had 11 digs in a win against Radford. In a win against High Point she finished with 10 digs. She led all Lady Chanticleers with 12 digs against Campbell and led all Coastal players with 14 digs against Charleston Southern – both of the games were wins.

What started as a slow season for the Lady Chanticleers quickly gained momentum once Big South Conference played rolled around. After starting the season 2-8, Coastal finished the season going 12-6 with two of those losses coming against South Carolina and Liberty in the Big South Tournament final. That early season schedule included Clemson, Xavier, Pittsburgh, Butler and Marshall to name a few.

“I would say the preseason was the toughest time for us. We did not have a set roster, and we were still trying to find ourselves as a team. We did not know yet what we were all about,” Orner said about the turn around. “Now, if we could go back and play those teams from early in the season, we would have done better. We really benefited from the great opportunities that we were given this year.”

For the season Orner led all Lady Chanticleers with 314 digs for a 2.83 per game average. She had a serve receive percentage of .952. She had 319 serves on the season and 15 aces. For her personally defensively, she takes it as a challenge to take on the biggest opponents.

“When we are scouting, I take it as a challenge for me mentally keeping them down in digs. When you can make that dig in crucial moments, it is really big for me,” she added. “When everything comes together and we can turn that dig into a big play and kill, it is even better.”

Orner, who took gymnastics for 13 years before suffering a neck injury, decided to give volleyball a try and it turned into a success for her. She had always thought she would go to college for gymnastics, but as times changed, she found a new sport to try.

She said having grown up around Penn State volleyball in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, she was constantly around an environment that always wanted to make her play. Orner was recruited to Coastal Carolina out of high school, but decided to attend Jacksonville. When she recruited a second time by first-year coach Jozsef Forman, he never knew that she already had an interest in Coastal.

“Those were the types of coaches that I wanted to be around. Jozsef is a caring man, and when I came around for my visit, the girls were great,” added Orner about the team. “I love where Coastal is going athletically and academically. It is just a great play to be right now.”

Being a transfer has helped her with academics since they spend about eight hours a week in study hall. She then tries to get extra repetitions in during her down time. She also takes advantage of getting work done before the weekend.

“We all try to take advantage of our down time, and all of the girls keep us motivated. Plus, all of the coaches have high expectations for our grades,” said Orner.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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