By: Joseph Fullbright
Mike Jordan has seen his fair share of talent come and go throughout his 19 seasons as head coach of the New Mexico State volleyball team.
With the loss of five valuable seniors last year, the Aggies knew some younger players would have to step up and produce if they wished to win the WAC once again.
One of those players has been junior Jordan Abalos.
Abalos, a 5’10” outside-hitter from Safford, Arizona, has great motivation to be the best in everything she does.
“I have always been [very motivated]. My dad always told me to ‘never be satisfied in what I do.’ So, no matter what awards [I receive], I always know there’s room for improvement.”
Volleyball hasn’t been the only sport Abalos has excelled at in her life. A three-sport All-American at Safford High School, she also starred on the basketball and track teams. She averaged 20.8 points and 13.8 rebounds per game on the hardwood. In track and field, she competed at the national level in high jump and javelin throw.
“The most I was recruited for was track and I had offers from a few Division I schools,” said Abalos, whose national level exposure showed colleges her skill. “But, my heart was at volleyball, so I wanted to play that.”
Back in early August, Abalos was voted to the preseason All-WAC first team by the conference coaches.
“It caught me by surprise. I honestly had no idea and I think they [the coaches] see the potential I can possibly reach and will reach eventually.”
The ride to the top hasn’t been entirely easy for Abalos, who has learned a lot from the last two seasons in Las Cruces. She was great on the offensive side of the net during her freshman season, totaling 180 kills to go along with five double-doubles.
“[During] my freshman year, all I did was hit. Now, I see myself thinking ‘where or how’ I want to place things in different situations. Whether you’re in a system or out of a system, there’s different ways to approach your hitting and I had no idea until I got here.”
Her sophomore season may go down as the most important in the long run. Abalos suited up at both her natural position, outside-hitter, and as a defensive specialist: a libero. That resulted in a drop-off of offensive numbers, but the experience proved to be very important.
“I was not very good at defense when I first came in here, but last year  I kind of got to perfect that as a libero.”
With her natural explosiveness as an offensive player, paired with the defensive finesse acquired from her experience at libero, Abalos has become a complete player so far in 2016.
Through 19 games, she leads the Aggies with 247 kills (second in the WAC) and 21 service aces.
Thanks to her improvement on defense, she is second on the team with 195 digs- a key defensive stat. Her ten double-doubles (double-digit totals in kills and digs) show her transition from a one-sided player to an all-around threat who can produce on both sides of the net.
Prior to the season, Mike Jordan praised her as somebody who he thinks would step up big for the Aggies. With those expectations, criticism and harshness is expected.
“He’s another dad to me because my dad was the same way when I was in high school. I think coach Jordan saw and noticed that. When he recruited me, that’s what he talked about: ‘she can take a lot of criticism and pressure.’ Other people have brought
that up- him getting on to me, and I think it’s just because he knows I can take it and respond in a way that he wants me to.”
The ultimate goal for Abalos, like many of her Aggie teammates, is to make the NCAA Tournament and win a game or two.
“It’s going to be tough, because we have a target on our backs. We won last year and are favored again this year. It’s going to be hard, but if we just continue to grow and get better at things we aren’t good at, there’s no stopping us.”
Joseph Fullbright can be at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @trusports_