At the first University of Florida women’s soccer meeting this fall, players were asked to partner up and interview each other, then describe their teammate to the rest of the group.
Freshman Savannah Jordan was depicted as “a goal scorer who was willing to sacrifice her body to get scrappy goals.” It didn’t take long for Jordan to live up to the billing.
The native of Fayetteville, Ga., sparked the Gators’ to a pair of season-opening 3-1 victories over Florida Gulf Coast and Oregon State with five goals in two contests — a legendary performance in her collegiate weekend debut.
Jordan netted two scores against FGCU, and followed it up with a hat trick versus Oregon State, earning National Player of the Week honors from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America on Monday. She is only the third Gator freshman in program history to tally three goals in a game, and only the second Florida freshman to score two goals in a collegiate debut and first to accomplish the feat since 1995.
“I think a lot of (her opportunities came) because opponents were keying on players like (junior midfielders) Annie Speese and Havana Solaun, and that opened her up a bit because she was playing under the radar,” UF head coach Becky Burleigh said. “She’s obviously not under the radar anymore.”
“I was just hoping to go out there and perform, whether it was scoring goals or assisting or having a presence in the game that could help the team win,” Jordan said. “I never expected to have such a big weekend. Once I got one in the first game, it opened up the gates a little bit and helped me relax.”
Jordan’s teammates were not so surprised at her immediate impact.
“I expected it,” Speese said. “Savannah came in this spring and she is just a natural goal scorer.”
While her two goals against FGCU were unassisted, Jordan took full advantage of the help she received from four different players en route to the hat trick against the Beavers.
“Nobody scores goals without people giving them great assists or without us creating opportunities, and I think Savannah is well aware of that,” Burleigh said. “She’s had some great play around her but her part in that is she is putting herself in good positions to score goals. When she gets those opportunities, for the most part, she’s finishing them. Goal-scoring is one of those things that are contagious. Once you get a little confidence and feel like you can score, you feel like you can score a little more.”
Jordan, who graduated from Whitewater High School in December 2012, enrolled early at Florida in January, giving her the chance to take part in spring practice with the Gators.
“I think it definitely gave me a head start,” Jordan said. “In the spring, it was easy to get to know the girls and gel with the team. It was a big advantage for me coming into the fall because I was already used to playing with them and the system our team plays.”
“It definitely helped her to get used to the speed of the college game and to become sociallyintegrated with the team,” Burleigh said.
Jordan may have not started playing soccer until she was 13, which is considered late in youth soccer circles, her experience competing in martial arts sparring allowed her to catch up pretty quickly on the pitch. She captured three gold medals in martial arts sparring at the U.S. Junior Olympics (2003, 2004, 2005) and earned a second-degree black belt in Korean-style Martial Arts, Taekwondo – all between the ages of 11 and 13.
“I think the aggressiveness has carried over a little bit,” Jordan said. “When you’re sparring and fighting in a sport, it brings that side of you out. I also think the martial arts need a lot of self-discipline and that has helped my composure in soccer as well.”
While Jordan gave up competing in martial arts when she began playing soccer, the training has undoubtedly played a part in her approach on the field.
“She’s really strong physically and she’s sophisticated in terms of her movement,” Burleigh said. “A lot of it has to do with your starting position and your willingness to get yourself in the fray. She invites physical contact and that is a goal-scoring trait.”
Jordan and the No. 8 Gators will face an early test as they host No. 3 Florida State on Friday. From now on it will be tough for Jordan to slide under the radar, especially against FSU head coach Mark Krikorian and the Seminoles.
“She’s a good player,” Krikorian said. “We know her fairly well. She’s a good forward and good in front of the goal. She’s a tough competitor. We know she’s capable of scoring goals as she showed last weekend.”
But that won’t stop Jordan from trying to remain a go-to player for the Gators.
“As a freshman, it is a big step to take, but the first weekend gave me a little bit of confidence to keep pursuing that job this season,” Jordan said.
“It’s pretty impressive, but we don’t have an expectation she will score five goals every weekend,” Burleigh said. “At the same time, if she continues to do the little things she is doing she’s going to put herself in a great situation to have opportunities.”
The top 10 match-up between Florida and Florida State will be broadcast live on Sun Sports at 7 p.m. ET.
Amy Farnum Patronis is a contributing writer for College Soccer News covering Division I women's soccer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org