By Walter Villa
POSTSEASON AWARDS: Gatorade National Player of the Year | Junior of the Year | Sophomore of the Year | Freshman of the Year | Coach of the Year | ESPNHS All-America Team | Gatorade State Players of the Year
Ask Jordan Burgess for her favorite hangout place, and you won’t hear the name of the local lunch spot, the corner Starbucks or any other typical high school response.
“I hang out in our gym,” said Burgess, a 6-foot outside hitter for Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.). “I’m there more than anywhere else.”
Mackenzie Dagostino, a fellow senior at Berkeley Prep and Burgess’ setter the past four years, said she can vouch for her friend’s dedication.
Dagostino, a Maryland recruit and the daughter of Berkeley Prep coach Randy Dagostino, said Burgess is the first player at the gym each day and almost has to be dragged off the court at the end of the night.
“She’s different than any other player I’ve played with,” Mackenzie Dagostino said. “After practice, she begs my dad to keep the net up so she can hit a couple more serves or block a couple more balls.”
A Stanford recruit, Burgess set Berkeley Prep records this year for single-season and career kills. She also led her school to a third straight state title, a 30-2 record and a final No. 5 POWERADE FAB 50 national ranking.
“She’s the best passing outside hitter I’ve ever seen at this level,” said Randy Dagostino, whose team has not lost to another Florida school in more than two years. “She had a fabulous career.”
The coach said he has had players who get up for big games, but what sets Burgess apart is her consistency. No matter if it’s a practice, a scrimmage or a big match, you can always count on Burgess giving it her best.
The same goes for Burgess in the classroom.
A straight ‘A’ student, Burgess plans on studying medicine at Stanford. She also said she will purchase a “sick” bicycle to get around the massive campus in Palo Alto, Calif.
The Stanford era of Burgess’ life will also mark the first time she is apart from her twin brother, Nick, who will stay in Florida for college.
“He’s been by my side through the good and the bad, but I guess it had to happen eventually,” Burgess said of the twins taking different paths. “It’s going to be weird and a bit sad.”
Berkeley Prep fans will also be sad to see Burgess go. She led the Bucs to 59 straight wins against in-state competition and finished her career -- on match point in the state final -- with an ace.
But despite those dramatics, Burgess is rarely satisfied. She is still upset at her performance in the Asics Challenge final in Chicago, a two-set loss to No. 3 Assumption (Louisville, Ky.).
“Assumption, 100 times over,” Burgess said when asked about her regrets from this past season. “I want to play them again. I know I would do things differently.
“Their libero -- I don’t even know her name -- she dug me like no other. I was hitting cross court, and she dug ’em all. They scouted me perfectly.”
Burgess was referring to senior libero Chelsea Bowles, who held the Berkeley Prep star to zero kills in the first set. In the second set, Burgess made the adjustment and started hitting down the line, resulting in nine kills.
It wasn’t enough to rally her team to victory, but Burgess said it was a lesson she will take with her to Stanford.
“I learned I need to take more risks,” Burgess said. “Normally I hit cross court, and the ball finds the floor. But in college, I will have to hit different shots and go out of my comfort zone.
“I just need to keep working.”
For anyone who knows Burgess, it comes as no surprise that her solution to any volleyball problem is more time in the gym.
“That girl,” Mackenzie Dagostino said of Burgess, “lives for volleyball.”
Getting nostalgic, Dagostino added: “I know I will have other good volleyball connections in college, but I’ll never have (an on-court) bond like I’ve had with Jordan. That was a special one.”