East Oregon University signs a ‘gem’

All it took was four minutes for Alexis Jordan’s brilliance on the soccer field to propel Richland to the national stage and etch her name in history. Her superlative displays attracted an array of suitors, but East Oregon University caught Jordan’s eye, where she committed to play next semester.

“Eastern Oregon, they got a gem,” Scott Toups, Richland women’s head coach said at her signing ceremony. “They won’t sign a better player than her this year. I mean, it’s fantastic for her to go experience a new part of the country and, and to keep playing soccer.”

Jordan, 21, joined Richland last fall after a brief hiatus away from college. Initially, she played for the University of South Alabama in the fall of 2016 but health issues including epilepsy which she’s had since childhood forced her to leave in her second year.

She moved back to Dallas and worked fulltime at a Kohl’s warehouse. After about a year of full-time work, Jordan started to weigh her schooling options in the summer of 2018.

Richland women’s assistant coach Vinson Brown, left, Alexis Jordan and Head Coach Scott Toups at Jordan’s signing on April 10.

Richland women’s assistant coach Vinson Brown, left, Alexis Jordan and Head Coach Scott Toups at Jordan’s signing on April 10.

“I got a call from my dad. My dad was like, hey, have you thought about Richland,” Jordan said. “I really didn’t want to go there at first, because, coming from a university I just felt like that was like a downgrade. But you know, you have to start from somewhere,”

After speaking with her sister Alyssa Jordan, a Richland alumna, and the Richland coaching staff, Jordan was sold. She enrolled at Richland for the 2018 fall semester. She was primarily recruited to fill in the gaps in defense, but as soon as the season began Toups knew she would be more than just a defender for his team.

It was the district championship final in Oct. 2018. The winner would qualify for the nationals. Richland failed at this stage for two consecutive years at the hands of Brookhaven. It was only befitting that the third attempt to qualify for nationals was against the team’s arch rivals and the reigning national champions.

Richland was looking for retribution, but it proved hard to come by. Richland opened the scoring and was looking like the victor until a late equalizer from Brookhaven forced the game into overtime.

Toups made a change. Jordan, who traditionally played as a center back, was shifted to spearhead the attack. Within minutes of the overtime kickoff she was pressing and running at defenders. In her first play to force a goal, her attempt was thwarted by the Brookhaven defense.

A couple minutes later, a through ball was sent down the right flank. A touch, a swivel and a searing burst of pace from Jordan left her marker spun and mystified. She swung a low cross into the middle of the penalty box. Claudia Pedroza tapped it in. Game over. Richland was through to the nationals.

“[Jordan] is what put us over the top. We were able to use her in the back playing defense and kind of hide her back there all season long. And at the end, when we got to the playoffs, we threw her up top and she just tore it up. She’s a big, big reason why we won this year. That is for sure,” Toups said.

Miranda Ibarra played alongside Jordan in the heart of Richland’s defense throughout the season. She believes Jordan’s presence and charisma was essential for the team.

“She is very fast, very aggressive and she is good at cleaning everything up,” Ibarra said. “Throughout the season, she was always a backup for us. So, we could always play confidently without worrying about who was in the back.”

Jordan was nurturing a fractured foot while playing in the district championship final, but that did not discourage her determination. She played throughout the district and national tournament with the injury to help Richland win an elusive fourth national title.

“I didn’t want to let my coach down. That’s really all I kept thinking about was [not] letting Scott [Toups] down,” Jordan said. “I had a lot of family watching. So, I really wanted to not only perform at the level that I know I can but also wanted to prove everyone, all my doubters and haters that you know, I could win this national title and help my team get this ring.”

Three years after her brief stint in Alabama, Jordan has another chance to play Division I soccer with East Oregon University, and she is relishing the opportunity.

“I feel confident that I’ll come into the team, and I’ll be a key factor to the team,” Jordan said.

East Oregon University Head Coach Jacob Plocher scouted Jordan keenly in the playoff tournaments and believes her versatility will be invaluable for his team.

“I think she’s one [who] can help us on both ends if need be. We’ll probably look at her coming to help our attack right off the bat, just with her speed and her creativity and her ability to, kind of, cause trouble with back line,” Plocher said.

“I think she’s one that, with all the pieces that we have in place, she’ll be a good asset and we’ll be able to mesh with them, to hopefully make our attack that much more potent,” he said.

“After I left South Alabama, I really felt like, I was never going to be the player that I was there because I was a really dominant player. And so, with me being a key concept to my team at Richland, that just really boosted my confidence to be like, yeah, you know, you can go off and play at the best D-1 level again and shine like just like you did at Alabama,” Jordan said.

Jordan intends to graduate with a master’s in kinesiology and exercise science and then pursue a professional soccer career.

“We’re trying to just put her in a position to be successful and also be the most beneficial for our team,” Plocher said.