Jordan wins girls lacrosse championshipJun 13, 2018 06:08PM ● By Ron Bevan
Jordan’s girls lacrosse team poses after winning the state title. (Photo/Andee Bode)
By Ron Bevan | [email protected]
The right type of motivation. Coaches strive to find it. The way to bring out the best in a team made up of different personalities, mental toughness and physical abilities.
For Jordan girls lacrosse coach Niki Ballou, it was a soft hand on the rudder that perhaps brought out the best in her team and propelled them to a state championship.
The Beetdiggers won the Division 2 girls lacrosse state title May 19 with a 15-8 victory over Davis.
But entering the season, a championship seemed like a longshot for the Beetdiggers. Jordan had a dismal 2017 season filled with frustration and losses that affected the team mentally.
“The decision was made in 2017 to take on the toughest schedule possible,” Ballou said. “The thought was that taking on the hardest teams would toughen up the girls. There was a lot of losses and a lot of heartbreak.”
Ballou was an assistant then — she was given the reins to run the team shortly after the 2017 season. She made the decision to revamp the program, find out what would work and begin the process of rebuilding the lacrosse program at Jordan.
“We needed to decide who we wanted to be,” Ballou said. “Last season was very hard on the girls. I had to convince some girls to come back this season.”
With only four seniors forming the leadership of the team, Ballou knew this year would end up being a rebuilding season. So the decision was made to focus on fun and improving skills and not on the win-loss record.
“We had a meeting and came up with the decisions that we would not care about the wins or losses as long as we played our best,” Ballou said.
The girls responded to the gentler touch and began the season with five wins to just one loss. Jordan would eventually complete the regular season with a 10-2 record going into the playoffs.
But it was a 9-6 win over Pleasant Grove on March 21 that would change the face of Jordan lacrosse. Although the Beetdiggers got the victory, Ballou felt the team didn’t play up to their potential, nor anywhere near it.
“I felt it was our worst game of the season,” Ballou said. “I pulled them off at the end and told them we shouldn’t consider it a win. We didn’t play well. We played very selfish.”
Showing the girls that even a win can be a loss had a profound effect on the team.
“Lacrosse is a mentality sport,” Ballou said. “If you don’t have the push or desire, you aren’t going to win. After the Pleasant Grove game these kids really focused on the season. Every single game afterwards the girls were playing for the other girls on the team and not themselves.”
Jordan began the state tournament with a 13-5 win over Woods Cross. Next up was Waterford, a team Jordan beat handily, 12-8, during the season. But this time Jordan would be tested.
“During the playoff game with Waterford we jumped out to a pretty good lead,” Ballou said. “I started to relax and let some younger players get some playing time. Waterford’s starters got a momentum shift and came back.”
Jordan would eventually get a 14-11 victory over Waterford to propel the team into the title game.
The Beetdiggers have the bulk of the team coming back for next year, but lose three of this season’s top scorers. Senior Paige Willaims led all scorers with 37 goals this year, with Raegan Davenport (27 goals) and Emme Laro (26 goals) also having played their last Jordan game.
Returning top scorers include junior Maya Thayne (27 goals) and sophomore Olivia Davis (20 goals).