Pomona-Pitzer Profile: Jordan Bryant
As one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation, Pomona has the opportunity to attract the best students from all over the country.
Fortunately for the Pomona-Pitzer Women's Soccer program, that includes students from right up the road.
Junior defender Jordan Bryant was a standout soccer player her whole life, playing on club teams in Orange County and then at nearby Claremont High School. But when she reached the age where she started to seriously plan for her future, she had a bit of an important decision to make.
"My sophomore year, I made the decision to quit club soccer and really focus on schoolwork so I could go to Pomona," said Bryant. "I knew I could play Division I soccer if I stayed with it. In fact, when I was younger, I always dreamed of playing for USC. But when I decided I wanted to be here, I knew that I couldn't afford to spend three or four hours a day going back and forth to Orange County, so I gave that whole club lifestyle up and focused more on academics."
Bryant had always known about Pomona from growing up in the neighborhood, but she didn't really become aware of how special the place was until she participated in a program called PAYS (Pomona College Academy for Youth Success). Then it was the only place she wanted to go. "I absolutely fell in love with it," she said, adding that the fact that her parents could continue to watch her play was an added bonus.
Her parents had plenty of influence on her athletic success. Her father, Neil, was a fourth-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres, and played in both the Padres and Cubs organizations during his professional career. Jordan says she learned quite a bit from him growing up.
"I think the biggest thing I learned from him was just working hard and treating competition seriously," said Braynt. "I like to joke around and laugh off the field, but on the field, I think I put all that aside and play with a sense of toughness and arrogance. Not in a bad way, but I think all good athletes have to believe in themselves to be successful, and I think I've gotten that from my Dad's personality. I'm a chip off the old block."
Even though she gave up club soccer as a sophomore, she continued to excel for Claremont High School, earning team awards all four seasons (MVP as a senior, Captain's Award as a junior, Defensive MVP as a sophomore, Rookie MVP as a freshman). She was named the Outstanding Player of the Baseline League as a senior.
And the part about focusing on academics? She was in the top 10 of her class academically at a first-rate high school, and was named the Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year in the Baseline League.
Bryant's impact on the Pomona-Pitzer Women's Soccer program is impossible to measure on the stat sheet. She plays center back, and you won't see her name in the scoring summary. But watch a game and you can't miss her. She drives the ball as hard as any player in college, on any level. Once this season, she nearly caught a goalkeeper napping on a free kick and scored a rare goal.
That's no big deal in itself, since defenders do commonly score goals off free kicks. This particular free kick, though, was from 40 yards away (a few steps over midfield) and just barely whistled over the crossbar.
But Bryant is also much more than just a player who can kick a soccer ball a long way. She's not like the golfer who can smash a drive down the fairway, only to find a bunker with the second shot and three-putt. Bryant is also a savvy defender who has the equivalent of a pro golfer's short game – she knows when to forgo the big boot and find a teammate's feet, or even when to play it safe and tap the ball out of bounds under heavy pressure and get her team back in position. She also has that intuitive knack to always be in the right place.
"Jordan is a player who makes everyone around her better," said Head Coach Jen Scanlon. "She always provides cover for everyone and picks up the little mistakes around her. She comes from a great athletic family, so she has all of the physical tools, but she's also incredibly gifted with her ability to read the game."
Reading the game is one of the traits that Bryant thinks is most important at her position. "You have to be able to anticipate what the other players are going to do, and see the plays coming ahead of time," she said. "It's a lot like being a safety in football, if you just stand there and react to the ball, you're usually going to be too late. Things like speed and strength are important to being a good center back, but it's just as important to think and anticipate."
One missing piece to the Bryant resume so far is postseason experience, as the Sagehens have missed the SCIAC Tournament the last two years. They stand on the cusp of a bid this season after a 1-0 win over Occidental on Saturday improved their league record to 6-3-1, and Bryant doesn't plan on missing out again.
"It's hard to describe, but at the beginning of the year, you could feel things start to come together with this team," she said. "It would mean so much to all of us to be in the SCIACs. In the past, people would ask us how the season was going and we'd give vague answers, like 'it's going well' or 'I'm enjoying it.' Now that we're winning, we can actually brag about our success a little when people ask, and tell them 'we won again.' It's a lot more fun this way."
And as for Bryant's decision to choose Pomona over a Division I scholarship? That's still a no-brainer in her mind. "This is such an amazing school in such a great place," she said. "I always tell people that I have the best of both worlds – I'm at one of the greatest colleges in the country, and I'm playing soccer. I have friends who had their heart set on Division I athletics and took the first scholarship they could find, and are now at schools where they aren't very happy. At the end of the day, I had the perfect place right in my own neighborhood, and this is so much better for me.
"I couldn't be happier."