WAXHAW – Since taking over the Marvin Ridge volleyball program prior to the 2009 season, all Mavs coach Brook Hammers has done is win.
Since her opening season when they went 13-8, the Mavs have become a state power posting a 191-30 record entering this season.
But despite all of that success, the knock on the Mavs is they couldn’t win the big one.
And last year it hit home in the worst possible way, as the Mavs entered North Iredell’s gym in the state semifinals 28-1 and on the verge of the finals only to fall flat in a devastating 3-0 loss that soured a wonderful start to the year.
“We went in there pretty confident as most teams do in the state semifinals,” Hammers said. “But to get beat, and to get beat 3-0, was emotionally and physically demoralizing to some of them. When I got a chance to sit down with them at the end of the season that’s the one thing they all said, ‘We want this and it won’t happen again. This is what we want and this is what we’re going to strive to.’”
Led by a strong senior class, the Mavs did just that.
They went 44-2 – the 44 wins a state record – during the regular season and blitzed past each opponent without even dropping a single set in the playoffs.
In the finals, the Mavs smoked Conley to claim their first-ever volleyball title, erase the critics and send the seniors – all of whom have played together since middle school – out in the grandest of fashion.
“It was amazing,” said senior setter extraordinaire Adriana Jordan. “We didn’t even talk about how unreal it was at first because so much was happening. It was a whirlwind of emotions. It’s kind of starting to hit me and I couldn’t ask for anything else. And even beyond the state championship, just the team that it’s with made it so special.”
“One thing we wanted to keep in mind, and especially for us seniors, is that any one game could be our last. We tried not to take anything for granted versus in other years where we thought we had an easy win or thought there was always next year. But for us, this was it. I think we took every set and every game from the first round through the playoffs.”
Hammers remembers Jordan tagging along with her older sister to practice and how adept she was at setting. When Jordan was a freshman, the senior setter scheduled to start suffered a season-ending injury and she was thrust into the starting lineup.
“I think that’s when she started to show her leadership,” Hammers said. “I already knew what she was capable of doing because I’d seen her grow for prior three or four years. But she stepped into that position and it didn’t matter how old you or how many years of experience she stepped into that position and it transcended the next four years.”
Charlotte Catholic coach Tracy Landschoot, one of the Mavs’ biggest rivals, commented after one Cougar loss about the wealth of Marvin Ridge attackers and that setter whose hands seemingly effortlessly control the state’s best offense.
“It’s not just her hands, but it’s her mind, too,” Hammers said. “She thinks a couple of plays ahead because she’s brilliant. She’s the National Honor Society president, she’s very smart and she sees the court very well, she looks at the other side and sees that matchups and that’s one thing she’s grown in her four years. Now she can dump the ball over the net and score, and she just picks up on everything.
“All of the feedback I’ve ever given her she’s never blanched. She’s ‘yes ma’am’ and she goes out and tries it and does it. She does it very well, actually.”
Nobody has ever done it better than Jordan, at least according to the NCHSAA record book.
This season she kept attackers Lexi Thomas (who set the school record with 422 kills), Mac Russ and Maggie Young (who set the school record with 88 blocks) all within the top 50 kills leaders in the state. In addition, Olivia Headrick and Paige Buttrey both played pivotal roles in particular playoff games and had more than 150 kills each on the season.
“I definitely rely on our passes,” Jordan said of her approach. “Passing was another area where we excelled this year. Our passing was so phenomenal that I was able to set anybody. I did try to look in advance for plays and I look at the other side of the court so I can move the ball around rather than feeding one hitter. But if they’re on, that’s who I’m going to set, but they’re all always on.”
Controlling on offense that averaged a staggering 13.2 kills per set, Jordan piled up 1,275 assists this season, which is within the top 50 in the nation and the top total in the state by nearly 200 assists over her closest competitor.
But that’s nothing new for Jordan.
In her junior season, Jordan had 1,008 assists to go with 954 as a sophomore and 773 as freshman for a career total of 4,010.
It’s a school record, county record and a state record and among the most assists ever assembled in a high school career maybe ever.
But when Hammers said Jordan is smart, she wasn’t joking.
She is not only National Honor Society president, but a member of young life and a number of other clubs while ranking very high in her class academically.
She said she’s considering North Carolina and N.C. State, but would prefer an out-of-state option such as Vanderbilt, Notre Dame or Virginia Tech, although Vanderbilt seems to be the frontrunner.
For now, Jordan wants to possibly enter Vanderbilt’s human organizational development major, which is sort of a mix of business and psychology. While her academics are in place, Jordan will ride into the sunset as a state champion in what was likely her last volleyball game.
“I cannot ask for anything better and I honestly have no regrets toward the season,” Jordan said. “Those two losses made us the team we are, so I wouldn’t change a thing. Even with my own individual accomplishments they don’t necessarily feel like they were just me because they were about the whole team … I’m grateful for all of it.
“But Vanderbilt does have a volleyball team if I happen to go there.”