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TAMPA — When Berkeley Prep senior outside hitter Jordan Burgess went to her history class Tuesday morning and saw TV cameras, she believed her teacher’s ruse that they were filming him.
Instead, they were there for Burgess, capturing her shocked expression as she fulfilled one of her dreams and added yet another national honor to her outstanding prep career. The Stanford-bound senior was named the Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year.
Burgess is the first player from Florida to win in the award’s 17-year history.
“It was amazing, I was completely surprised,” Burgess said after accepting the award while receiving a standing ovation from her classmates and teammates.
Despite playing nearly the entire season with a broken pinkie on her hitting hand, she tallied 533 kills, 366 digs, 32 blocks and 48 aces this fall, helping the Buccaneers to their third straight state title and their bay area record-tying 15th title overall. Berkeley hasn’t lost a game to an in-state opponent since 2009.
Throughout that stretch, Burgess has kept her focus by writing down her goals and posting them on her bedroom bulletin board. She also emails a copy to her coach, Randy Dagostino.
“We’re in high school, there’s a lot of distractions with friends and focusing on schoolwork and volleyball at the same time,” she said. “The hardest part is being able to manage all of it and remember what’s most important to you and staying focused on getting the best I can at volleyball.”
In December, Burgess was named the Gatorade Florida Volleyball Player of the Year for the second straight season. She also received the Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Volleyball award for the second straight year, becoming the first repeat winner in the award’s 20-year history. Additionally, she has been named an Under Armour first-team All-American.
Joining the ranks of Peyton Manning, Candace Parker and Derek Jeter, who all won player of the year in their respective sports, though, tops them all.
“This one definitely goes above all the other ones,” she said. “ If you look at the people that have come before me, like Dwight Howard, Kerri Walsh, it’s such an honor. I’ve dreamed of being on this stage.”
Of the 11 volleyball award winners that have completed college, seven have gone on to play on the U.S. National Team. An eighth, April Ross, was named USA Volleyball’s Beach Female Athlete of the Year for 2011 and was at Berkeley to present Burgess with her prize. Burgess is the eighth awardee to go on to play collegiately at Stanford.
If Burgess achieves her next dream, she’ll join the others who have become Olympians. Dagostino who has coached volleyball for 28 years and sent nearly 100 players to Division I-A programs, sees that in her future.
“The thing I will remember most about you is that you were able to answer a riddle of sorts for me that had eluded me for 20 years,” Dagostino said during his speech. “And the riddle is simply this: what does it take in an athlete to become an Olympian?”
Burgess will have the chance to mingle with former Olympians this July, when she attends the ESPN ESPY awards along with the 11 other athletes that were named player of the year in their sports. Two of them, one male and one female, will be named athlete of the year.