When an evening like Friday comes, when Nebraska will honor Jordan Larson, one of the all-time great players for the volleyball program in a jersey retirement ceremony, it comes with some reflection.
Photos get looked at. The memory of Larson’s jump serve dropping to the floor comes back. Stories get told. Coach John Cook told a great one the other day that symbolizes what Larson has done for many years now: She went for it.
Larson went for it when she was in middle school, when she wasn’t shy about telling people that she was going to play volleyball at Nebraska, and after that in the Olympics. And she did so while growing up in the small Nebraska town of Hooper.
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Jordan Larson of Logan View bumps a pass forward as teammate Katie Westergaard looks on during the Nebraska State Volleyball Class C 1-3 district finals played on Nov. 25, 2004.
Nebraska volleyball recruits Rachel Schwartz, left, Lincoln East; Jordan Larson, Logan View; Brooke Bartek, Lincoln Northeast; and Amanda Gates, Columbus, prior to the 2004 prep season.
Jordan Larson (left) and Sara Pavan light the Cornhusker State Games torch at Seacrest Field in Lincoln on July 7, 2007.
Nebraska's Jordan Larson serves to Tennessee during the AVCA Showcase at QwestCenter Omaha on Aug. 25, 2007. (LJS file photo)
Jordan Larson lets a ball get through her block during the second match of the Nebraska vs. Penn State volleyball match on Sept. 11, 2005, in Lincoln.
Head assistant coach Lee Maes points at Maggie Griffin and Jordan Larson during a timeout in the Husker's volleyball match against Kansas State on Nov. 19, 2005.
Jordan Larson celebrating a point in 2008.
Jordan Larson serves in the third game of a match against Texas at the NU Colesium on Sept. 22, 2008.
Jordan Larson takes a shot against the Texas A&M defense in the NU Coliseum.
Gainesville, FL-12-09-2006-- Jordan Larson of Nebraska attempts a kill past Meredith Nelson, left, and Kelly Bowman of Minnesota in the NCAA volleyball regional final in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, December 9, 2006. Nebraska won the match 3-2 and advances to the Final Four in Omaha next weekend. Larson was named Most Outstanding Player of the Gainesville Regional. ***HOLD FOR MONDAY'S POSTER!!!! 12/11/2006 pg 6D Player of the Week: Jordan Larson 12/24/2006 pg 10G Their Place, Their Time ABOVE: Dani Mancuso (from left), Dani Busboom and Jordan Larson argue with an official that an attack by a Husker was touched by a Minnesota player during the Huskers' regional victory on Dec. 9 in Gainesville, Fla. The Huskers were given the point on the play. TOP RIGHT: Larson picks up one of her 21 kills in the match. MICHAEL McNAMARA/Lincoln Journal Star
Nebraska vs. Washington NCAA Division 1 Volleyball Tournament Elite Eight SEATTLE, WA -- 12/13/2008 --Nebraska's Jordan Larson (left) celebrates with teammate Amanda Gates during after beating Washington in the NCAA Regional Final game at the University of Washington in Seattle. JACOB HANNAH/ Lincoln Journal Star 12/15/2008 pg 3D Jordon Larson (left) and Amanda Gates celebrate after Nebraska’s victory. JACOB HANNAH/Lincoln Journal Star
Nebraska vs. Washington NCAA Division 1 Volleyball Tournament Elite Eight SEATTLE, WA -- 12/13/2008 -- Nebraska's Jordan Larson hits a serve during Saturday's NCAA Regional Final win over Washington at the University of Washington in Seattle. JACOB HANNAH/ Lincoln Journal Star 12/15/2008 pg 3D Larson serves during the final match against Washington. It was a Larson ace that sealed the improbable, come-from-behind victory. JACOB HANNAH/ Lincoln Journal Star
Gainesville, FL-12-09-2006-- "I'm so proud of you," said Kae Clough as she hugs daughter Jordan Larson after Nebraska defeated Minnesota 3-2 to advance to the NCAA volleyball Final Four on Saturday, December 9, 2006 in Gainesville, FL. Larson was named Most Outstanding Player of the Gainesville Regional. 10/22/2008 pg 1C NU’s Jordan Larson (left) hugs her mother, Kae Clough, after Nebraska defeated Minnesota in the 2006 regional finals in Gainesville, Fla. Tonight, the Huskers will wear pink warmups and fans will wear pink as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month to honor women who have had the disease, including Clough and coach John Cook’s sister. LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR FILE PHOTO
Nebraska players celebrate after beating Washington in the NCAA Regional Final on Saturday at the University of Washington in Seattle. Nebraska won three straight sets after losing the first two, to win and advance to the Final Four in Omaha.
Olympics 7.30.2012 0a
United States' Destinee Hooker (left) and former Husker Jordan Larson celebrate during a women's preliminary volleyball match against Brazil at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 30, 2012, in London.
Logan Tom, Jordan Larson
United States' Jordan Larson celebrates during a women's preliminary volleyball match against Brazil at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 30, 2012, in London.
Jordan Larson, Kim Hee-jin, Yang Hyo-jin
USA's Jordan Larson (10) pushes the ball at South Korea's Kim Hee-jin (19) and Yang Hyo-jin during a women's volleyball semifinal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London.
Jung Dae-Young, Jordan Larson
United States' Jordan Larson, right, tries to block a shot by South Korea's Jung Dae-Young (13) during a women's preliminary volleyball match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London.
Jordan Larson, 8.18.12
Eight-year-old Matthew Houlihan (left) of Omaha asks a question to U.S. Olympic volleyball team member and former Husker Jordan Larson about her silver medal on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012, at the Scheels All Sports store in the Village Point Shopping Center in Omaha.
A show of support for United States Olympic volleyball player Jordan Larson is displayed on the welcome sign of her hometown of Hooper on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. The U.S. Olympic volleyball team will play for the gold medal Saturday.
Many of the windows in downtown Hooper, Neb. show support for United States Olympic volleyball player and Hooper native, Jordan Larson, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. The U.S. Olympic volleyball team will play for the gold medal Saturday.
Many of the windows in downtown Hooper show support for United States Olympic volleyball player and Hooper native, Jordan Larson, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012.
Olympic medalists back home, 8.27.2012
Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook shakes hands with former Husker and Olympic silver medalist Jordan Larson during a ceremony honoring Larson and Jordan Burroughs (left) on Monday, Aug. 27, 2012.
Jordan Larson gives fans a high-five during a victory lap after Nebraska beat Duke in the NCAA Tournament in 2005 at the NU Coliseum.
Jordan Larson, 06/28/2013
Olympic volleyball silver medalist Jordan Larson discusses different setting techniques with young volleyball players on Friday, June 28, 2013, at the Bison Youth Sports Complex in Lincoln.
Nebraska Celebrity Charity Challenge
Olympic volleyball player and former Husker Jordan Larson (left) jokes around with former Husker volleyball player Brooke Delano during the Nebraska Celebrity Charity Challenge on Saturday at the Pershing Center. Larson coached one of the teams at the event.
Jordan Larson, Ekaterina Lyubushkina, Ekaterina Kosianenko
Jordan Larson (10) of the United States, a former Husker, goes for a kill against Russia's Ekaterina Lyubushkina (left) and Ekaterina Kosianenko in a FIVB World Grand Prix volleyball match Friday in Omaha. The United States won in four sets to remain undefeated.
Kansas vs. Nebraska, 12.17.15
Former Husker Jordan Larson-Burbach is interviewed during a break in the action of the Kansas-Nebraska NCAA semifinal match at CenturyLink Center Omaha on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015.
Rio Olympics Volleyball Women
Jordan Larson (right) celebrates with teammates Alisha Glass and Kim Hill during a match against Japan during the Rio Olympics. Larson, a Hooper native, is playing in her second Olympics.
USA vs. Canada, 1.7.2016
United States' Jordan Larson dives for a tip during a NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament match against Canada at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016.
Team USA volleyball practice
U.S. Women's National Team member Jordan Larson (L), Kayla Banwarth and Kelsey Robinson practice with the team ahead of the NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2016.
Nebraska's Jordan Larson is introduced before the start of their match with Penn State at the Qwest Center, Omaha, Thursday, December 18, 2008.
Lincoln Lutheran's Angela Hlavaty defends against Logan View's Jordan Larson during a 2004 Class C-1 semifinal play at Lincoln Northeast High School.
She went for it after college, living for long stretches of time in countries like Russia and Turkey where it can be tough to chase her volleyball dreams. She went for it to make her first Olympic team in 2012, and she’s still going for it. Larson is 30 years old, and says if her body lets her, she’s going to try to make the team again in 2020.
Back to Cook’s story, which he says is probably the best one he has about Larson. It came from one of the most iconic matches in school history, against Washington in Seattle in 2008, Larson’s final college season. The winner had a spot in the NCAA Final Four to be played in Omaha.
Washington won the first two sets, and then again had the advantage, leading 9-3 in the fifth. The Huskers fought back, and Larson was headed back to the serving line on match point. That followed a long rally. The players were exhausted. Cook was yelling for Larson to do a simple float serve, worried that if her signature jump serve went off her arm short, wide or long, that the Huskers would have lost all the momentum.
“And she just never even looked at me,” Cook said. “She just walked back and grabbed the ball. Because she knew that was what I was going to tell her. She didn’t even look at me, and, of course, served an ace.”
Cook tells that story correctly, Larson said earlier this week. She may have looked to Cook to see what zone to serve to, but she wasn’t about to take any other advice.
For four years Cook had told Larson to trust her training, and that’s what she did then.
“I knew I was going to get it in,” she said.
The serve hit the floor for an ace. The Huskers won the set 15-13. Larson dropped to the floor in complete exhaustion. They’d done it.
“Everything that I had, I’d given to that game, and it was so worth it,” Larson said.
While other Huskers had more kills during their careers, Larson was arguably the program’s best-all-around player. The outside hitter could do it all: Dig shots you never thought she would, get kills on both roll shots and explosive blasts, and unleash a jump serve that produced a school-record 186 aces. She found different ways to take over a match.
In 2006, Larson had the match-clinching kill when the Huskers won the national championship in Omaha.
And her post-college playing career is unmatched by the program’s alums. Once — and probably still — the face of Nebraska volleyball, Larson later became that for the United States team. She’s been on the Olympic medal stand twice, and helped the U.S. win the 2014 FIVB World Championship, the first-ever major tournament gold medal for the women’s national team. The teams she’s on always seem to win a lot.
Friday she’ll be in Lincoln to see her jersey retired, but by Sunday she’ll be on a plane to Istanbul ready to start her 10th season of professional volleyball.
The time that Larson can spend in Nebraska is sometimes limited, but when she does return she usually still finds a way to give back, helping with a volleyball clinic or attending some event.
It’s been several years since Larson was regularly on TV in Nebraska, but she's still a volleyball superstar here. And this spring when a fourth-grader in Omaha had to do a poster on a famous Nebraskan, she chose Larson.