There is a common saying that everyone knows: like mother, like daughter. Some daughters inherit their mothers’ looks; some inherit their mothers’ keen knack for cooking; for Jordan Bruce, she inherited her mother’s gift of playing soccer. The senior has been playing the sport since the age of five and has been at the top of her game ever since, despite her smaller size. With her college career here at UC Irvine coming to a close, Bruce reflects back on her journey as an Anteater.
For many of the senior athletes at UCI, there is a shared reminiscent feeling as they reflect on their growth in the past four years. One thing never fails with these seasoned athletes though; they are always striving to achieve more. They all have final goals that they want to achieve before they graduate, and Bruce is no exception to this finding. Bruce admitted that earning the title of champions of the Big West Tournament, a feat she hopes to overcome this season, has yet to be crossed off her bucket list.
“We’ve won the league a few times since I’ve been here, but we’ve never won the actual tournament so that’s our main focus right now,” Bruce said. “We don’t know how the season is going to turn out; we need to make it into the tournament first. But it would be awesome to win.”
In talking to Bruce, there was a definitive maturity and confidence in her comments about the game and her career. Could this be attributed to her being a senior, a crucial member of this team both on and off the field? Could it be the obstacles she has faced in the past four years have shaped her into this composed person? In truth, it’s a little bit of both.
As a freshman, Bruce had the rare opportunity of playing in every single pre-season game. Unfortunately, Bruce suffered an injury right before the conference started, forcing her to watch from the sidelines.
“Ugh, it hurt me just as bad losing that game to Washington State in the Sweet 16 at our own field,” Bruce cringed. “I wasn’t even on the field, but I saw the potential in our team.”
Despite this loss, Bruce admits that this is one of the fondest memories that she will take away from being an Anteater. Just the fact that UCI had the opportunity to host a game for the NCAA tournament and that the ’Eaters advanced to the Sweet 16 is a memory that Bruce will cherish. This memory also unveiled a truth about the women’s soccer team here at UCI for Bruce, explaining that this moment reinforced her fortune of being on a team that is constantly pulling for each other and putting the team goals before each of their own individual goals. Another of Bruce’s favorite memories: scoring against rival Long Beach State of course.
“My teammate Mady and I always get on the ball in certain areas of the field and that time I just said, ‘I got this one,” Bruce said. “I got on the ball and I could just feel it. If I wanted to score against anyone, it would be against Long Beach.”
These memories would mean nothing if she did not have anyone to share them with. As stated by Bruce, this team shares one common goal and works hard to achieve this goal, winning. In reality, the bonding of teammates when they are not in the heat of the moment adds to the cohesion and chemistry of the team.
“I can’t say that I can run down one favorite memory with her,” teammate Zuri Walker said. “But one thing that could stick out is our own ritual/handshake that we do before each game. And I will miss her tenacity and strong tackles as well as her crazy free kicks and power shots.”
Standing at 5’4”, Bruce is often underestimated as a center back. She has the most crucial position on defense, a position usually played by a player with a bigger build because she is the main line of defense for her team. Don’t discount Bruce though. This tough center back has recorded kicking the ball around 65 mph — clearly her size does not affect her abilities. Her slight disadvantage in height does contribute to her unique story; it is also motivation behind Bruce’s skill in reading the opposing team.
“I have always been a defender, but as [Coach] Scott has learned I am not a very good mid-fielder,” Bruce laughed. “It’s hard being short because you have to be better in everything else. At the same time, it’s made me better because I can read the game better and faster.”
Being a defender is all Bruce has known. One thing Bruce was not used to is not playing or being the star of the team, a lesson she learned very quickly in her first couple years at UCI. Bruce was off to a great start, starting in eight single pre-season games her freshman year. Then she got injured, had to sit out her freshmen year, and came into her sophomore year expecting to play — a mistake that Bruce regrets.
This was a huge wake-up call for her. She had to learn the hard way to put her team’s needs before her own. Her sophomore and junior years, Bruce did not see the field as much, something that was unfamiliar to Bruce for she was always “heavily relied upon” on her past teams.
“It was a huge attitude adjustment for me,” Bruce said. “I realized there are better players out there that deserve to play above me. So it really taught me to work hard even if I didn’t always reap the benefits.”
Taking her own experiences, Bruce is now able to pass down her knowledge and wisdom to the younger players who are new to the program. Bruce admits that the shift from underclassmen to upperclassmen is definitely apparent, sometimes caught off guard when a younger player turns to her for advice. But because of Bruce’s past obstacles and recent lesson of hard work and being team-oriented, she can relate to these underclassmen and explain to them that this is a different level, a level that requires one to put the team’s needs first. Perhaps Bruce’s lack of playing time was a blessing in disguise, teaching her important lessons that apply off the field and in the real world.
With the season coming to a close, Bruce is still unsure about her future. She realizes that the chances of pursuing a career in soccer are slim. She is currently an intern at the sports marketing department on campus, so there is always the possibility of exploring that option. But for now, Bruce is soaking in every last moment as a Lady Anteater.