Coaches didn't have to work hard to get through to Jordan Larson often, but when they did, she always took it to heart.
Like as a sophomore at Logan View High School, where she already was a rising star outside hitter who had committed to Nebraska. Her coach, Angie Svec, benched her in a regular-season tournament when she felt Larson wasn't giving it her all on defense.
When am I going back in, the player asked. You're not, the coach answered.
"Every time you had one of those moments with her to grow up, she gave something back," Svec said. "She could always do it. She could always deliver more. She never doubted or questioned. She trusted."
Finding ways to grow and improve, to stretch the limits of her physical talents, became a hallmark for Larson, who grew from small-town superstar to the best all-around volleyball player in the world.
She ended her high school career with a pocketful of state records and was PrepVolleyball.com’s No. 2 national recruit in 2004, the highest ranking ever for a Nebraska native.
As a Husker, Larson was a three-time All-American and led NU to three Final Fours while making her mark in some of the most memorable matches in Husker history. The last of her 19 kills sealed Nebraska's win over Stanford in the 2006 NCAA championship in Omaha. In 2008, her signature spinning jump serve keyed the Huskers' miraculous comeback win in five games against Washington that sent NU back to the Final Four.
Her final college match, she was dogged in defeat, leading Nebraska back from a two-set deficit to force Game 5 against top-ranked and undefeated Penn State at the Final Four in Omaha. Larson had 17 kills and 18 digs in the match, but the Nittany Lions held on to win the fifth set en route to the national title.
Larson's post-college accolades surpassed even her Nebraska exploits. In 2014, she began one of the best two-year stretches for any American player in history. She led Russian club Dinamo Kazan to the European Champions League title and club world championship. The following year, she repeated the double, adding MVP honors in both tournaments with Eczacibasi Vitra of Turkey.
She has become a similar stalwart on the U.S. national team. Larson earned a silver medal with Team USA at the 2012 Olympics in London and had become a starter two years later when the U.S. won its first-ever major international competition at the 2014 world championships.
"She has to rank among the most successful international players when you look at the titles and championships she’s won," NU coach John Cook said. "To me, she’s like a Tom Brady, a Messi. She’s done some incredible things."
Related link: Hard work has served Jordan Larson well
Played for: Logan View High School, Nebraska Juniors (club team), University of Nebraska, Vaqueras de Bayamon (Puerto Rico), Dinamo Kazan (Russia), Eczacibasi Vitra (Turkey), U.S. national team
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Her freshman year at Nebraska in 2005 coincided with the breakout season of Cambridge native Christina Houghtelling, No. 94 on The World-Herald’s Top 100. Houghtelling was named AVCA national player of the year as a junior in 2005 after averaging 3.69 kills, 2.49 digs and 1.03 blocks per set to help the Huskers to a national runner-up finish. "She was just a beast, an amazing all-around athlete," Larson said of Houghtelling. "She definitely just had a presence when she walked in the room."
Best moment as an athlete: She had 19 kills and 15 digs in the 2006 NCAA championship match as a sophomore, helping Nebraska to a four-set win over Stanford in front of more than 17,000 in Omaha.
Early sign of greatness: She set a Class C-1 record by averaging 15.08 kills per set as a junior in 2003, leading Logan View to a state runner-up finish.