Davidson nearing biggest finish

Jordan Davidson is a finisher. Whether on the business end of a cross, a through ball, a corner kick or a rebound, the speedy 5-foot-2 Vanguard University women's soccer forward has deposited 29 goals into the net in two years with the Lions.

She scored 28 in two seasons at Paradise Valley Community College in Arizona.

A conference player of the year and a first-team junior college All-American, she has twice been named Golden State Athletic Conference Player of the Year and is a virtual lock to repeat the first-team All-American recognition this year that she received as a junior.

But all that is just newspaper clippings. Dig a little deeper and adversity more imposing than a swarm of defenders has aligned to impede her progress toward her most notable finish: graduating with a bachelor's degree in May.

It all began, well, at the finish; the finish of a sterling prep career at Mountain View High in Tucson, Ariz.

"Playing Division I was always the picture my club coaches put in my head," Davidson said. "But in the end, it came down to Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills or Paradise Valley Community College. It was something me and my mom struggled with."

Davidson said her mother, Shannon, who had raised her and her two brothers after separating from Jordan's father when Jordan was 1 (a younger sister now lives with her father, John, in Michigan), was disappointed that five years of club soccer, solid grades, and a strong high school career would amount to her daughter playing at a community college.

Davidson said the decision to go to Paradise Valley became contentious and "my whole family basically ganged up on me."

So, Davidson said she packed up and moved out, determined to make it through school and on the pitch all on her own.

It is a task she is proud to report she will finish, though the last four years have not been without tumult.

"I worked full-time as a waitress at a sports bar restaurant while I was going to school in Phoenix," Davidson said.

And when it came time to choose a four-year school, Davidson found herself battling another conflict.

"It came down to Mid-American Nazarene in Kansas and Vanguard," said Davidson, who has 17 of her 29 collegiate assists since coming to Costa Mesa. "I wound up choosing Vanguard, because it was a little closer to home, they would cover the cost of my school, and I would be close to the beach. To be honest, I didn't know anything about the soccer program, I was not a Christian and I knew nothing about God."

Her lack of faith was unique among the rest of the student body at Vanguard, for which the mission statement says it exists to honor God and serve others.

"Growing up, I didn't have things bad, but they weren't always easy," said Davidson, who acknowledged that her high school friends lived close to the edge and she found enough trouble as a high school sophomore that her mother threatened to not pay for her club soccer participation. "I wasn't necessarily a bad person, but I guess I just didn't always do the right things."

Davidson said a lack of happiness, as well as the real circumstances of her need to survive on her own, helped create an undercurrent of discontent that often manifested itself in less-than-friendly interaction with her peers.

"I wasn't an angry person, but I just wasn't happy," she said. "I had all this stuff. It was definitely culture shock when I first came here."

And while she doubted her impact on the soccer team — fretting erroneously every night with her then-roommate that she would never start — she helped lead the Lions to an 18-2-1 record, GSAC regular-season and tournament championships and a trip to the NAIA Tournament quarterfinals, in which they lost in penalty kicks after a 0-0 tie.

But it was off the field where she found her place most profoundly.

"I was in a mandatory class that all athletes new to the school have to take, to learn about sportsmanship, servant leadership and just what is expected of a student-athlete at the school," Davidson said. "I was arguing with my group leader about going to heaven even though I didn't believe in God and he asked me to stay after class. When the last student went out the door, I started crying. I don't know why I was crying, but from then on, things changed, because that was when I committed my life to Christ. I had no idea what I was doing. But I had no reason to say no, so I said yes, and it has kind of gone on from there. It has been an amazing experience for sure. I'm glad that I'm at Vanguard."

Davidson said once she "let go" of some of the problems and concerns that had been weighing on her mind, she began experiencing life, and soccer, differently.

"I became a Christian on Sept. 28, 2012 and I was baptized on Easter last year," she said. "It's crazy the changes I have seen in myself and the changes people have seen in me. I realized that soccer was not where my identity was anymore."

Injuries to her foot and her knee forced her to miss two games and slowed her in others this season. And heightened interest from opposing defenders also contributed to a slight drop in her scoring production — 11 goals and seven assists after 18 goals and 10 assists in 2012.

"I tell people that Jordan B.C. (before Christ), would have been upset that I wasn't doing what I thought I should be doing, or wasn't getting the ball as much as I should," Davidson said. "But I was happy just seeing our team doing well and seeing other people being recognized for their success. It was cool seeing that."

Despite fewer goals and assists, her 29 points rank third on the team behind Kayla Arenas (14 goals and six assists) and Jen Martin (10 goals and 13 assists), Davidson was named conference Co-Player of the Year by the coaches.

"I was happy about that," Vanguard Coach Randy Dodge said about Davidson sharing the conference's top individual honor. "She didn't have the greatest year, but she was still dangerous. She was tough. Everybody knew her and she was still able to be dangerous. The girls is good for three or four great scoring chances a game."

Davidson said the Co-Player of the Year honor was a big surprise.

"When I got the text telling me about it, I was like 'No way,'" Davidson said. "I was not expecting that at all. It was really cool to see the other coaches acknowledge that I was still working really hard."

Davidson has also had to work extra hard in the classroom to satisfy additional degree requirements for religion classes. She said she is taking 25 units this semester (10 more than the norm) and will take 21 in the spring semester to make sure she graduates.

She will lead the No. 13-ranked Lions (15-4) into the NAIA Tournament that begins Saturday, but she sees her role in the game after college as a coach.

"Coaching and teaching are things I'm interested in and I coach two club teams now (the FC Strikers U11 and U13 boys' teams). She said she wants to use her degree to work with at-risk kids.

"I think I can relate to a lot of people and I can show them that they can do this, that they'll be fine."

Davidson said she is working toward repairing her relationships with her parents and her siblings and she will do so with her new identity.

"It's in Christ," she said when asked to define that identity. "It's cool to say that."

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