You can call it fate. You can call it destiny.
But in reality, the reason that Emerson Aber and Dominae Jordan hit separate milestones less than a week apart isn’t by chance.
It’s come from hours upon hours of hard work, and it’s come through a relationship that allows them to hold each other accountable.
It’s come from a lot of growth since they entered the school.
“We’ve been improving since the first season, especially since our freshman year there’s been some great improvements,” Jordan said. “We have a young team, so we’re putting it together, and we’ll definitely be better in the future.”
Aber and Jordan each made school history recently by becoming the program's first players to reach 1,000. For Aber, she’s recorded over 1,000 assists, and Jordan has more than 1,000 digs and kills. Both of those are impressive enough, but even more impressive when you remember they’re only juniors.
Head coach Jamie Maxey described how special it was that the two reached those numbers so fast.
“It’s exciting,” Maxey said. “Not that many juniors hit those milestones. Especially with a new program. You don’t have that longstanding, really good team from day one. For them to hit it their junior year within one week of each other, it’s just really exciting. They work so hard. They both wanna play volleyball at the next level. So, just to see them accomplish their goals is really exciting for me.”
Both girls were proud of their accomplishments. Jordan described it as “a cool flex.” Aber joked that, “It’s exciting. You know you’re better than all the other setters and hitters [in the school’s history.”
Aber and Jordan started playing volleyball together in fifth grade for a feeder team. Jordan attributes her family as the reason she started playing.
“We have fun code words for things. Playing over time, I just know certain things. If the ball is pushed really far behind Emmie, I know she’s gonna push it all the way out to trick the blockers.”Denmark junior Dominae Jordan
“I have a really athletic family,” Jordan said. “We just grow into sports. I played basketball and soccer, and all these different sports. But volleyball was just my favorite escape.”
Aber followed a similar path to developing a passion for the sport.
“I started playing because a lot of my family and friends were playing,” Aber said. “After their first year, some of them quit, but I really found a love for this sport. I tried so many sports when I was a kid, but volleyball really stuck with me.”
Playing together that long has allowed them to develop a certain chemistry.
“We have fun code words for things,” Jordan said. “Playing over time, I just know certain things. If the ball is pushed really far behind Emmie, I know she’s gonna push it all the way out to trick the blockers.”
While they said the code words were top secret, the time spent playing together allows them to know what the other is thinking, even without using those words.
“It’s really easy to know the exact ball she likes,” Aber said. “If I’m on the court, this is how she wants it. It’s really nice to play with her for all these years.”
Years of playing together has allowed them to be honest with each other. There’s no beating around the bush when they’re talking to each other. They just call it like they see it.
“We don’t fight,” Jordan said. “But I’ve seen Emmie at her best, and she’s seen me at mine. So, when I know she’s not giving it her all, I’m definitely gonna hold her accountable, and the same for her toward me.”
Both girls feel like they’re leaders on a young team. Their willingness to lead and help their teammates improve will pay dividends for the program years down the road.
“A lot of the players like to come to me and ask me for help with extra reps or little things,” Jordan said. “I’m always open to helping people be better. Them being better helps our team be better.”
Maxey agreed that their leadership is a huge benefit to their team. She also added that their ability to lead by example and put in the extra work has played a big role in their success.
“Both Emmie and Nae serve as our captains,” Maxey said. “They’re both juniors. Our captains are voted on by teammates, so for them as juniors to earn that role kind of speaks a lot about their personality and what they do for the team in general. The fact that their teammates chose them over other players that have been there longer shows the respect that the rest of the team has for them. They both have been here since we really started. They’re the reason that our program is evolving at the rate it is. The first year, I think we won one game. Now we’re in year four, all the way up in 7A, which is crazy to think about. Every year improving, I think we’re at 20 wins right now and trying to finish top four in one of the best regions in the state, hands down.
"Just to be able to compete at that level in such a short time period, they’ve had a lot to do with that. They are just really good kids. They love the sport of volleyball. They push their teammates to be better. They hold them accountable. They’re the ones when we’re on a break, I give them three days off, and they want to know if they can come in on the three days. That’s them.”
As far as the rest of the season goes, the girls want to win, but they may be more focused on enjoying each and every moment as much as they can.
“Part of it is having fun,” Aber said. “A lot of the time, some girls find themselves not having as much fun as possible. But that’s what doing sports is. It’s mostly about winning, but having fun is a big part of it. [Another goal is] placing top four.”
As the region tournament quickly approaches, Jordan and Aber don’t just feel they’ll be ready for the high pressure matches.
They welcome them.
“We live for these moments,” Jordan said. “The pressure of the game. The adrenaline rush you get with every kill. We live for these, so I feel like it’ll be more fun than it is stressful.”
“The higher the pressure of the game, the more exciting it is,” Aber said. “The competitiveness, that’s the reason I like volleyball.”
With Jordan and Aber leading the way, Maxey definitely feels confident in her team’s chances of making a run.
“We do have a young team,” Maxey said. “We graduated six last year, most of which had significant roles on the team. So we have a lot of younger players starting to step up in those spots. I think it’s been an adjustment for a lot of them. Many of them were on JV as a freshman and now are in varsity, some in a starting role, which is a big adjustment to make. With both of them leading and doing their job, which they have done the whole season, I think we definitely have an opportunity. We just have to take advantage of it and do the little things right.”