Once a Panther…always a Panther


Natalie Wilcox

   During her high school career, Natalie Dunn was known as the super star varsity tri-sport athlete(volleyball, basketball, and track). She received a plethora of awards including all conference, all area, all state, Holland Sentinel player of the year, athlete of the decade, and more. She earned these honors in basketball and volleyball.

   Along with being a highly respected athlete, she is a prestigious student and was a valedictorian of her graduating class. No surprise she earned individual academic all state honors.

   Throughout Dunn’s senior year of high school, many questioned which sport she would choose to pursue in college. The ability to play a sport at the division one collegiate level is a huge accomplishment. It’s not often one hears of someone deciding which D1 sport to commit to.

   In early spring of her HS senior year, she committed to play volleyball at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.

   Furman competes in the Southern Conference. “Our team has consistently finished at the top of our conference. I’ve played outside and right side. Transitioning back and forth between positions has been a challenge but learning to swing at both pins makes you a more versatile athlete and gives you more options to swing out of transition,” Dunn said.

   Many wonder how student athletes maintain their drive and love for the sport because of the major commitment. Dunn thanks her teammates for enhancing her passion for volleyball. “My teammates motivate me every day to be a better athlete and person. We feel the same pain at fitness, and the same stress in practice, and the same soreness after weights. But when we do it together, it makes me want to wake up early the next day and do it all over again even better. I love playing volleyball because I get to do it next to my best friends,” she said. 

   Volleyball is not the only reason Dunn chose Furman; she saw the school’s academic prestige and opportunities they offer that will set her up for success in the medical field. Dunn is double majoring in Spanish and Health Sciences and plans to attend medical school eventually. She takes multiple rigorous courses and participates in many community outreach opportunities. “Last summer I stayed at Furman to complete two summer classes as well as a full time neurology internship. Last fall I served as a trainer and created strength and conditioning plans for 3 participants at Furman. I met with each of these people 3 times a week to help them train in the weight room. This semester I meet once every week with an immigrant from Colombia to teach her English. These opportunities help me to meet and serve other people in the community, and they inspire my passion for the medical field,” Dunn said.

   She described her most surprising reality at Furman being that time in college flies by even faster than high school. “ It feels like just a second ago I was a freshman and now I’m the upperclassman. College volleyball is challenging but so so rewarding. I’m so happy that I chose Furman and am so lucky to have met these lifelong friends.”

   Dunn thanks the West Ottawa community for shaping her into the person she is today. She recalls that through WO’s high-expectation environment, she was pushed to challenge herself by taking difficult AP classes while playing three sports. This led to setting high standards for herself in college. “West Ottawa had a large support system that allowed me to grow as an athlete and an individual, and set me up to thrive on my own at the next level,” Dunn said.

   Post grad, she plans to study in Mexico for a year to gain experience in the medical field while continuing to develop her Spanish.