FORT MYERS, Fla. – She probably won’t have an opportunity to play this weekend in the Atlantic Sun Conference Volleyball Tournament, but without the play of setter Jordan Huston this season the Lipscomb Lady Bisons might not be the No. 1 seed.
With sophomore starting setter Kayla Ostrom sidelined for five matches and part of one more due to illness Huston stepped in on Oct. 24 at Northern Kentucky and helped guide the Lady Bisons to a 5-1 record during her stint that ended Nov. 14. They were the first starts for the senior from Joliet, Illinois since the 2012 season.
“Jordan has been incredible stepping up into this role,” said Lauren Ford, a co-captain and a fellow senior. “She is always ready to go. She didn’t know when her time would come or if it would come.
“She has been content with that. But she stepped up and performed and excelled at it. All of us were impressed. I think it renewed our confidence as an entire team that someone who hasn’t been in the forefront and playing every game stepped up and did what was needed to be done.”
Ford stressed that every player knows her role and even if that means a player is not starting or playing on a regular basis they are still important to the team.
“When she was asked to perform Jordan came in and did it to the best of her ability,” Ford said. “Jordan has been the absolute best even coming in at the last minute. I think that is a huge example to the freshman underclassmen.
“As a whole she has been there for the team. She has done everything the team has done and sometimes more. At every weight workout she pushes harder than other people. She works harder than other people.”
The Lady Bisons received a bye in the first round. They will play Stetson at 4 p.m. CT on Friday night at Alico Arena on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast.
Always ready to help
Huston might not make an assist in the tournament but her presence will be felt. She is known for her enthusiasm on the sidelines as she cheers on her teammates. Rosenthal calls her “the captain of the bench”.
“Just because she hasn’t been on the court doesn’t mean she wasn’t a huge part of the team prior to her starting,” Ford said. “She has gotten the bench going. She carries the energy from the sidelines to the court every time.”
Huston made 260 assists in the six matches she started. She posted 53 assists at Northern Kentucky and a career-high 55 against Florida Gulf Coast.
She found out she would be making her first start the night before playing Northern Kentucky. Despite playing only one set this season prior to the first start she was prepared for the challenge.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” Huston said. “I don’t practice normally on the side with all of the starters.
“Mentally I kept telling myself, `you can do this.' I had been preparing myself for this since I was 10 years old. This is what I always wanted to do. It was my chance so I needed to take it and run.”
Practicing against the starters on a daily basis helped Huston be able to perform on a higher level.
“We practice so hard,” Huston said. “We work so hard.
“Physically, we are all prepared all the time. But when your name is called you have to go out there and do it.”
The Lady Bisons lost that first match with Huston as the starting setter at Northern Kentucky. It was not her fault, but the loss hit her hard despite …
“It boosted my confidence big time, but it would have been better if we had won,” Huston said. “When I was first told I was going to start it was like, `holy molely’ but I kept myself composed.
“This is what I wanted. But it was such a shock. The closer it got, I reminded myself to stay calm and to remember how much I love the game and to have fun. That is what I tried to do.”
Supporting the team no matter what
Huston’s willingness to support her teammates despite limited playing time is an example of her character and the family approach to the volleyball program.
“It has been incredible how we get along and that has been the case on every single team I have been on since I have been a freshman here,” Huston said. “I know that no matter what they will be there for me and they will back me up off and on the court.
“There is almost a sense of comfort going in and playing with them. It doesn’t make it easy, but I can relax. I am not going to freak out.”
Huston could have pouted or become a distraction through a negative attitude, but that is not the way she approaches the sport of volleyball or life.
She knew before the start of the 2014 season that she would be in a reserve role. She accepted it and decided to do whatever she could to boost her teammates.
“I have always been like whatever I can do to help the team win is what I will do,” Huston said. “And if that is to be their biggest cheerleader and their biggest fan I will do what I need to do to pick them up when they are feeling down or whatever it takes to build them up.
“I am not going to lie. It is hard sometimes. I want to be out there, but we are winning and if what I am doing on the bench is helping that then it works for me.”
“Playing for her”
A theme for the Lady Bisons is “playing for her”. Huston is a prime example of what is meant by the theme.
“Playing for her is about playing for the girl next to you…that little girl who fell in love with the game,” Rosenthal said. “I give Jordan a lot of credit for saying this is what I want and these are the people I want to be around so I am going to fight for them.
“It was a mark of her character for being able to step up. It is also a mark on the character of the other girls to say this is awesome. This was Jordan’s opportunity so let’s make the most of it because she has made the most of ours.”
As a nursing major there is no doubt that Huston is a smart person. And being able to think quickly during a match is one of the main key’s to being a good setter.
“I love being at the net and being offensive,” Huston said. “Defense is something I have to focus on.
“A lot of being a good setter is knowing the other team. I have to look at the other team’s blockers to determine where I am going to set the ball. A lot of it is knowing who to go to at the right time.”
The series of starts are going to be prominent in Huston’s memories of her time as a Lady Bison. She will have photos courtesy of her parents.
“My mother was so excited,” Huston said. “She told me she took about 500 pictures.”
Huston has high expectations for herself in all parts of life. Rosenthal has found it difficult to send Huston back to the bench now that Ostrom is healthy again.
“All of us want to play,” Rosenthal said. “All of us want to have a major impact. But how can you do that? We ask the girls that all the time.
“I think Jordan stepped up to the plate and saw the ways she could do this. She has embraced her role and continues to run with it. She is an excellent teammate and somebody over the years who has been there for a lot of people.”