BELLEVILLE — Being recognized as the Belleville News-Democrat's Player of the Year put the finishing touches on a memorable season for senior Jesse Jordan.
Jordan, a midfielder at Belleville West, was instrumental in the Maroons winning not only the city championship, but also their first Southwestern Conference title.
"We thought we could get a lot farther than what we did. Unfortunately, it didn't happen," said Jordan, who finished with 10 goals and 10 assists as West finished 18-4-1 overall and 5-0-1 in the SWC. "But even though we didn't get as far as we wanted, we accomplished most of the goals we wanted."
Jordan was usually in the middle of the action. The three-year starter teamed with freshman forward Sean Gouveia (13 goals, 11 assists) to give the Maroons a dynamic one-two punch. West's 56 goals led the SWC.
Jordan said he enjoyed setting up Gouveia, a role many seniors might not relish.
"Everyone knows he's good," Jordan said. "If that's what we needed to do to win, that's what we're going to do. If he's good, get him the ball and let him put it away."
Maroons coach Rob Thornberry appreciated Jordan's attitude.
"It really was an exciting season to see those two combine," Thornberry said. "It could have been a (bad) situation, but it wasn't. They combined and worked together very well. We didn't have any problems because Jesse's unselfish."
Jordan's was the runaway winner in Player of the Year balloting submitted by coaches from Class 1A, Class 2A and Class 3A.
"That's awesome," Jordan said. "I'm pretty excited. It means everything to me. Having a good team around me made me look better. They always pushed me. I definitely felt strong, but everything and everyone around me made it easier."
Jordan, who also finished with 10 assists as a junior, said he's always enjoyed having the ball and "running down the field with it." Once inside midfield, Jones springs into attack mode.
"His field vision is probably his No. 1 (quality)," Maroons coach Rob Thornberry said. "He turns with the ball, his head's up and he sees the lane. He can play a 40-yard pass on the dime."
Jordan honed his ability to connect with a forward from long distances by spending hours working on that particular skill.
"I like the long through balls and the corners," Jordan said. "I struggled on my corners this year, but my through balls were good. I worked on those a lot when I played academy (with Scott-Gallagher)."
Jordan broadened his game this season, doubling his goal production from last year when he had five.
"In the past, he was very much known as a great passer of the ball; he was very much a setup player," Thornberry said. "This year, he stepped up in the midfield and became a goal-scoring threat as well. A lot of games came down to him getting an assist on the winning goal or getting the winning goal.
"He's got a lot of nice assets as a player. He can possess (the ball) under pressure, he has great service and great field vision. He's a great soccer player. And he was the captain of our team, also. He took on a leadership role as well."
Jordan couldn't believe that West never had won a conference championship. It's a league that for years was dominated by Granite City and Collinsville before the playing field leveled with the emergence of Edwardsville, O'Fallon and Belleville East.
"That was one of our goals," Jordan said of winning the SWC. "It's not an easy thing to do that, so it was huge for West."
The Maroons' only blemish in the conference was a 0-0 tie with Edwardsville on Oct. 9 at West. Still, it sealed the league title.
Eleven days later, the Maroons' season ended in the Class 3A Collinsville Regional with a 1-0 loss in two overtimes to O'Fallon.
"I definitely will miss it," Jordan said. "I wish I had one more year, especially after this season. They're going to be better next season."
Jordan, meanwhile, will take his talents to William Woods University, an NAIA school located in Fulton, Mo. The Owls, members of the American Midwest Conference, were 11-8-1 overall last season.
"It's perfect for me: NAIA," Jordan said. "Hopefully, I can step into the midfield. I think I just need to work on my fitness. It's a lot of work, especially in college."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.