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Jordan senior Ella Folse.
FULSHEAR — Katy Jordan’s initial foray into Class 6A was an impressive one.
The Warriors’ volleyball team topped a quality Cy Woods club 3-1 (21-25, 25-14, 25-20, 25-19) in its season-opener at home Tuesday evening, showing off a dynamic 1-2 punch in senior Ella Folse and junior Ella Koch, and promising young talent at the net.
Jordan, which opened its doors in 2020, is making the move up to 6A this year. The Warriors went 19-19 in District 19-5A last season, finishing fifth in a competitive district.
“It’s super exciting to step up from a great, tough 5A district to be able to play with our fellow Katy ISD (in one district),” said Folse, a Sam Houston State commit who had 15 kills and six aces to lead Jordan. “We’re excited for the challenge. We know it’s going to be tough but we’re working hard to get a playoff spot.”
\u201c.@JordanHSVball senior @_Ella_Folse talks about the Warriors\u2019 season-opening win over Cy Woods tonight and more. Folse had 15 kills and six aces in the win. Jordan is making the move up to Class 6A this year. #txhsvb @JordanHSAthlet1 @KatyJordanAT1 @KatyISDAthletic\u201d — VYPE Houston (@VYPE Houston)
Jordan dropped the first set as errors and the attacking skills of seniors Emily Schaper (three kills, two aces) and Jordan Columbus (three kills) ran roughshod.
In the second set, however, Folse took over. The 6-foot-1 outside hitter had three kills and five aces as the Warriors jumped out to a 13-2 lead.
At one point, Folse served on nine consecutive points for the Warriors. She said she is stronger on her feet this season, getting on top of the ball rather than just overrunning it, and staying low on defense.
Folse is also in a better place mentally. She gives positive self-talks before every game.
\u201c.@_Ella_Folse is straight up dominating this second set for @JordanHSVball. She\u2019s got a kill and five acres in this set alone as Jordan is out to a huge lead, 13-2. #txhsvb @JordanHSAthlet1\u201d — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
“She’s been huge but not just on the court,” Jordan coach Jennifer Vaden said of her star player. “She’s been so important off the court with being a leader and buying in. She’s a right-side and I changed her to a six-rotation outside (hitter) last year, and you have to have a lot of trust in me to see it and stick with it. She just figures things out. She’s someone who picks people up and really does well embracing an environment that frees up and allows kids to make mistakes and not get upset about it.”
The Warriors were hardly threatened the rest of the way aside from a brief stretch in the fourth set, when the Wildcats rallied from a 17-11 deficit to tie it at 18-18. But Jordan closed the game on a 5-1 run to seal the deal, thanks to terrific play at the net from Damisi Osibodu, Abbie O’Shea and Addison Oglesby.
\u201c.@JordanHSVball takes the season-opening win over Cy Woods, 3-1. They get the fourth set, 25-18. Impressive effort for the new 6A program. #txhsvb @JordanHSAthlet1 @KatyISDAthletic\u201d — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
“We’re really good at turning a run around and getting out of a rut really quickly,” Folse said. “We had great energy on the court. We did a great job of getting in and out of huddles and resetting.”
Cy Woods graduated eight seniors from last year’s 33-12 regional quarterfinalist team. But Jordan fosters a young roster.
Two sophomores, Osibodu and O’Shea, and two freshmen, Emmy Nicholas and Ava Ribakovs, saw substantial playing time Tuesday. Osibodu and O’Shea each has a reach of almost 10 feet, Nicholas is impactful as a defensive specialist and Ribakovs flashed a lot of skill as a right-side setter.
Koch had 11 kills and two blocks. O’Shea had eight kills and two blocks. Osibodu had five kills, five blocks and two aces.
“We have a brand new team,” Folse said. “Everyone is coming in together. We’ve really been working on defense, big, out-of-system, covering … we know everyone will have big blocks in 6A and big swings. We’re ready for that and training hard.”
Vaden said her team has to be more disciplined on the blocks and on defense but she’s confident it will come.
There is so much to like right now.
One thing is the culture.
“We talk about how important every day is, from how we work to how we hustle in practice,” Vaden said. “Everything we do puts us in a position to come out here and be able to execute, even while young. We take intentional reps that starts in the spring but also means being smart in club and all of that. We get a chance to be a first-time varsity in 6A, so what are we going to do? How do we keep that purpose every time we get in the gym? If you can do it in a gym in practice, you can find a way to do it when the games are real.”
Another thing, as a byproduct of said culture, is leadership. Vaden has a difficult time singling out any one player, or players, as leaders.
“We do a district-wide spring leadership (program) of captains, and I take my whole returning varsity because they need to know what a real leader looks like,” Vaden said. “They keep each other accountable, which is really hard in high school. There is a vision here that everybody is valuable on this team, and everybody is pushing everybody.”
Katy Jordan players and coaches pose with the Region III-5A championship trophy following their win over Austin Northeast Early College in penalty kicks last Saturday at Turner Stadium in Humble.
Katy Jordan boys soccer coach Jason Meekins often talks to his players about being trailblazers. He would know. He’s been one.
Meekins played for the 2001 Brenham High team that was the first to go to state. It led to bigger and better things. It was a considerable movement forward for the Cubs program in culture, standard and expectations.
“You’re blazing the trail for everybody that’s coming after you,” Meekins tells his players. “Whatever you want the expectation to be or the tradition to be, you’re setting that.”
The Warriors have owned that. It’s showing on the field.
That notion of being the first to accomplish anything has engineered Jordan’s impressive run to state in its first year of varsity play. The Warriors play Dripping Springs in the Class 5A state semifinal Thursday at 5 p.m. at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown.
Jordan is 18-6-2 with no seniors and 12 underclassmen.
“We’re playing some of our best soccer,” Meekins said, “and a lot of it is because of their mindset and what they want.”
Three things are a boon for Jordan.
One is work ethic.
“Sometimes we joke around off the field, but when it’s time to work and train, we flip the switch and focus,” freshman midfielder Marcelo Ojeda said.
Another is team chemistry. The Warriors’ program is a familial one, led by Meekins, though it has been a work in progress since the offseason.
“Our team chemistry has grown since then and the respect level has increased,” junior forward Hani Taan said. “We stopped playing for ourselves and started playing and working hard for each other. We all have respect for each other on the same level. We see each other as players, and not through grade levels.”
And the third, interestingly, is youth. It is something the Warriors see as a battle cry, not a burden. Players talk about Greece in the Euros and Leicester City in the Premier League as examples of teams overcoming to overachieve great things.
“Being young makes us feel a bit like underdogs,” Ojeda said, “and that helps motivate us to win.”
@KatyJordanBSoc wins. Going to state.pic.twitter.com/wLIglszyXa — Jim Dang (@Jim Dang)
Meekins was an assistant coach under Tom Jones at Tompkins when the Falcons made the regional tournament in their second year as a varsity program in 2016. After three years as head coach at Ridge Point, Meekins made the move back to Katy, where his family lived and his wife is a teacher.
“As a coach, you always want to put yourself against the best and see where you match up,” Meekins said. “This is a good area with good talent, year in and year out. Building a program that could compete at the highest level here in Houston was kind of the drive.”
Like Jones, Meekins immediately went to work fostering a program of relationships.
“It’s bigger than soccer, and that’s what I learned from (Jones),” Meekins said. “High school soccer is an emotional game. He’s able to get accountability and playing together out of his kids.”
Meekins introduced his players to the weight room, something that was a foreign concept to most of them. Soccer programs generally don’t spend a lot of time, if any, lifting weights.
“The weight room identifies a lot about a person, as far as what they’re willing to put their bodies and their mind through,” Meekins said. “A lot of it is mind over anything else. That’s a big part of getting them to realize they can compete above what they think they can.”
From assistant coach Robert Courtney, Meekins learned to delegate ownership to players. The Warriors program is not a dictatorship. It is a democracy.
“Coach Meekins likes to listen to our opinions and takes them into consideration as he organizes the team,” Taan said. “He doesn't have a set way of playing. He makes his tactics around the players, which makes the players connect with each other.”
Katy Jordan: Region III-5A champs in its inaugural year of varsity play.Courtesy of Katy ISD Athletics
THE GREAT RESET
A critical juncture of Jordan’s season was a three-game losing streak to start district play. The Warriors were outscored 4-0.
“We were very unmotivated, so our coach took matters into his own hands and organized a meeting that is now known as ‘The Great Reset,’” Ojeda said.
The meeting put the emphasis on the players. Meekins was direct and succinct. “What do you want to do in your first varsity season?”
Since then, the Warriors have been definitive in their response, winning 16 of their last 20 games.
“We gained a lot of momentum, and that was when we realized that this team, this family, could have a really successful run in the playoffs,” Ojeda said. “We were right.”
Ojeda said the Warriors are “enjoying the heck out of this.” There is no pressure.
“The hardest thing about being a first-year varsity team is everyone takes us as less due to not having seniors,” Taan said. “But I also think that’s the most enjoyable part, to be able to show that we don’t need a senior class to be a top-class program and to prove ourselves.”
The Warriors are playing freely, joyfully and relaxed despite high stakes. Take last weekend’s Region III-5A championship win over Austin Northeast Early College in penalty kicks, when Jordan’s five shooters were laughing and telling jokes with a referee while waiting for their turn to kick.
“Coach tells us before every game to have fun and enjoy it, because not everyone has this opportunity,” Ojeda said. “A lot of times, me and my teammates crack jokes during the game to ease the pressure by just talking and saying funny stuff. Just going out there and playing with nothing to lose. Nobody thinking that this might be their last ever high school game.”