Dec. 18, 2008

 

By Lara Boyko
Special to NCAA.com

When growing up in a place like Hooper, Neb., with a population of 900 and graduating from high school with a class of 45, there is only one way for 6-foot-2 outside hitter Jordan Larson to dream when she was a kid – big.

“I sat down with my parents when I was 12 and set some goals for myself,” said Larson. “I wanted to start on the varsity team as a freshman in high school, I wanted to commit to a college and play in the Olympics.”

Now after accomplishing two of those goals and many others along the way, Larson is playing in her third NCAA Final Four with Nebraska in four years and has one more goal to achieve before pursuing the last of her three childhood goals.

“I knew it was a possibility to play in this many Final Fours considering all of the talk that took place when I was coming into Nebraska,” said Larson. “The tradition here and the fan support has been incredible. For me having grown up in Nebraska, I have worn the jersey proud and it has made me work a little bit harder because I am from here and no one should question that.”

Along with no one questioning Larson’s pride, very few are questioning the Husker’s place in this weekend’s finals. After all, it was the Huskers who took home the national championship just two years ago and have a total of three NCAA titles in the program’s history. Yet even with all of this history, the Huskers are finding themselves as the underdog of this weekend’s events.

“That is how we have been playing since the beginning of the season when we were ranked No. 7,” said Larson. “A lot of people didn’t believe that we would be here at the end of the season. I think having that underdog mentality has fired us up since the beginning of the season and we have won a lot of matches because of that. I think it will give us some fire this weekend. We are the underdogs and we are used to it.”

Fortunately Larson and her teammates have believed in themselves all season long, especially during the more tumultuous times during the season.

“From Rachel Holloway leaving (at the beginning of 2008) to having my mom my being diagnosed with breast cancer and another one of our teammates having a friend killed in Iraq, there have been a lot of little things that have happened with our team,” said Larson. “Sometimes we didn’t get along as a team and had to find ways to get along.”

Yet even though the Nebraska team has seen more than its share of hard times this season, they have are heading into Thursday’s semifinal against heavily favored Penn State with some tough skin.

“This team has gone above and beyond, fought and done things that were not thought to be possible,” said Larson. “I think we have a little bit more mutual respect and love for each other, which has been the key to this season. Every day we are not going to get along, but we have this mutual love and respect for each other which has made us want to succeed.”

This rough road to the program’s 11th national semifinal may have not been an ideal way to continue playing this far into December, but for Larson, it is part of an unforgettable journey that could help her achieve her final childhood goal – playing professionally and possibly the Olympics.

“It has been an incredible ride and I have cherished every moment,” said Larson. “I just don’t want it to end. I am glad that it is my senior year and I am going out with a bang.