Passing on the passion: Hayden’s Jordan Temple prepares for final match
Hayden's star swatter Jordan Temple considers life after volleyball
All matches are at Soroco
3 p.m. Hayden vs. Paonia
4:30 p.m. Hayden vs. Soroco
6 p.m. Soroco vs. Paonia
Hayden — For the best high school athletes, senior year is about big decisions.
After a decade or more of training and practice, four years of games and work and, all through that time, off seasons of conditioning and camps, senior year is the time to make the decision and to decide on the next step.
It’s the time to pick where to play in college.
Hayden senior Jordan Temple has endured all of that.
She’s been playing volleyball since she was 8 years old, and she’s been a sensation since she was thrust into the Tigers’ varsity lineup as a freshman.
She’s been the best player on her team since she was a sophomore.
She’s done the camps and the conditioning, the workouts and the tournaments. For a decade, she’s given everything she has to the sport she loved.
And, just as she’s supposed to, she’s used her senior season to make the big decision.
Temple’s volleyball career started as a gym rat when her mother coached the Hayden Middle School team.
On Friday, her volleyball playing career will end.
There’s a bit of presumption in that bold statement, that Friday will be the last day Jordan Temple plays competitive volleyball.
For one, Hayden could advance. The Tigers begin play in their three-team pod at the district volleyball tournament at 3 p.m. in Oak Creek against Paonia. They then play at 4:30 p.m. against Soroco.
The winner of the pod will advance to play Saturday against the champions from the two other trios.
The Tigers have lost to Soroco twice already this season, early in a three-game sweep and more recently in four games. They haven’t played Paonia, but the Eagles are 19-0 and the No. 3 ranked team in the state.
Considering her team’s chances, Temple remembered back to her freshman year in 2011, when the district tournament again was in Oak Creek and Paonia, Hayden’s last opponent of the season, again was a tough matchup for the Tigers.
Hayden already was eliminated from advancing, but it won that match in five games.
“That was the dream team,” Temple said.
She’s spent a lot of time recently thinking about that squad. When she took the court last week for Hayden’s senior night, she kept flashing back four years to life as a freshman.
It was a good team, one with a loaded roster featuring six seniors and enough size to play with any Class 2A team in the state. It had her sister, senior Jacie Temple, and it featured Jordan, who as a freshman was doing what she’s still doing: playing spectacularly with and against athletes older, taller, stronger but no better than she was.
She began playing volleyball in third grade when her mother, Kim Temple, stepped in as the middle school coach. Jordan took to it immediately, and after signing up for the Whiteout club volleyball team based in Steamboat, she rocketed through the ranks.
As an eighth-grader, she was playing with high school juniors on the club team.
“She’s talented beyond anything I’ve seen coming through club volleyball,” said Shelby Jennings, who’s coached Temple two seasons in the organization. “She just has a natural ability to play the game.”
Jordan Temple is not tall, 5-foot-4, and that’s a bit of a headache when it comes to college. She does have a tremendous vertical that allows her to be a six-spot player in high school, never coming off the court in a rotation.
Her coaches said in addition to simple athleticism, there’s more that helps Temple shine. Many good players can hammer a ball in for a kill. At her best Temple, will do more, aiming the ball to a spot, around a block and through the defense.
“What sets a good volleyball player apart from a great volleyball player is peripheral vision,” Jennings said. “Her awareness is something that’s allowed her to excel in her game.”
High school teams have spent four years planning for Jordan Temple.
On senior night, when a ball was perfectly set up for her and she was charging toward the net, arm cocked, the opponent’s bench screamed out, “Here it comes!”
“It sounds selfish, but I love that I’m that player,” Temple said. “That’s what I strive for, and it’s definitely a rush when I hear that.”
“Once I kill it,” she said, “I think, ‘There it was.’”
From a team standpoint, it’s been an up and down ride at Hayden.
She’s had two winning seasons and now two losing. Having three head coaches hasn’t helped establish a consistency, and looking this year at a roster stacked with inexperienced players — many good athletes, but none as focused on volleyball as Temple has been — she considered transferring.
She’s driven to Steamboat twice per week for club volleyball for years. The thought of playing with Steamboat Springs High School’s team, filled with her club teammates, was a tempting one.
“I was dead set I was going to go to Steamboat,” Temple said. “It would have been a really easy transition, but then I realized I would have to be there for more than just volleyball. I wouldn’t be a Hayden Tiger anymore.”
She weighed the decision right up until fall practice began but couldn’t do it.
Temple is the fourth generation of her family to live in Hayden and graduate from its schools, and that proved too much.
Leaving behind her high school proved too much. Leaving behind her family roots proved too much. Leaving behind her Tiger teammates — even if they weren’t as passionate about the sport as she was — proved too much.
“I don’t regret it at all,” she said. “I love my team.”
Passion to spare
In Hayden, it’s been the season Temple feared.
The squad got a slow start. It won three times in four matches in September but lost eight of 10 to finish up the regular season.
In the journey, though, Temple found what she needed to make that decision, the big senior decision.
For a decade, volleyball has defined her and now she’s tired and she’s sore.
A hurt shoulder kept her out of matches this year. A bruised sternum sidelined her last year and fluid buildup in her knees has slowed her down.
That all helped in the decision.
Where will Jordan Temple play college volleyball? Nowhere.
Neither coaches nor parents think Temple’s decision to opt out of college volleyball is great.
“It hurts a little, knowing how hard she’s worked at it,” Jennings said. “I didn’t play college. I backed away for my own reasons. I was young and naive and I wouldn’t want Jordan to make the same mistake and regret not trying it.”
Temple’s parents, too, were surprised when she backed off. They know better than to push the issue, however.
“When she has her mind made up, that’s it,” Kim Temple said. “We just want her to be happy. If she decides she’s done after this weekend, she can certainly look back on her career and be very proud of what she’s accomplished.”
All of the reminiscing associated with the end of her senior season has Temple wavering on her decision to not play.
Her lack of height never would allow her to get a serious look at a Division 1 school, but she had interest from smaller schools across the state. She’s hoping to attend Mesa State University and is kicking around the idea of walking on to the volleyball program.
Somewhere in her senior season, though, she found something else to content her.
The losing has been grating and the injuries painful. She’s taken an active role in coaching the team, however, helping out coach Dayna Hunter and the Tigers’ staff.
She’ll help coach the Whiteout program this winter, too.
Turns out, she really enjoys it.
She’s had her heart set for years on going to college to be a teacher. While her senior season didn’t convince her she wanted to play volleyball for four more years, it just may have convinced her to be a coach for 40 more.
Temple has been one of the best players in Routt County in her four years at Hayden and her playing days could end Friday.
Still, no matter the results against Soroco and Paonia and no matter what she decides on college volleyball, her career in the sport is anything but over.
“I’ve been doing this for so long. I’m ready to open up that new chapter,” she said. “I want to share my passion, to help other players. Not every player can play this game forever. Some of the students have to become teachers.”
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