Berkeley Prep sophomore outside hitter Jordan Burgess helped the U.S. Youth National Volleyball team win the NORCECA Girls Youth Continental Championship in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on May 2nd.
The U.S. team automatically qualified for the 2011 FIVB Girls Youth World Championship in Turkey and also will compete in the first IOC Youth Olympics to be held in August in Singapore.
The reigning Class 3A Girls Volleyball Player of the Year, Burgess helped Berkeley Prep win the 3A state title this past season and ended the year with 363 kills and 385 digs.
Burgess recently answered a few questions about her experience for TBO.com.
TBO: What did it feel like to represent the U.S. and to win a gold medal?
BURGESS: Traveling to Guatemala and representing the USA was amazing. When I wear the USA jersey I feel as though my performance reflects on more than me, my family and friends. I understand that the way that we play, our attitudes and sportsmanship, and the way that we conduct ourselves leave a lasting impression on people that see us. Representing the country is a huge responsibility and to have the opportunity to do so feels great and makes me very proud. Having the chance to play in the NORCECA tournament was an honor. Topping it off with a gold medal was amazing. We came into the tournament with a goal to take home the Gold and by winning we qualified for the World Championships next year and the first-ever Youth Olympics Games in August.
TBO: Which country impressed you the most? And how would you assess the overall level of talent at the NORCECA Championships?
BURGESS: Mexico was by far the best team that we played against and we met them in the finals. What made them special was one outside hitter. It is amazing how big of an impact one player can make on a team. If she were to move to the U.S., she would most likely be the top recruit for the class of 2012 and 2013. She's that good. Going into the tournament, we expected that each team would take us to five games and each match would be a battle. Don't get me wrong, the teams played at a very high level, but we managed to win all our matches in three games except the final match that we won in four. We have been told that the next two tournaments will be completely different. We will play teams like China and Cuba for example that train year round and one coach told me that instead of having one player like the outside from Mexico, they will each have three or four. I can't wait.
TBO: Which was better, winning the gold medal for the U.S. Youth Team or winning the Class 3A state championship?
BURGESS: Both championships were amazing. Winning a state championship was awesome because I had been training with the girls on the Berkeley varsity squad from August until December and we had worked and trained so hard for the state tournament. Only three letters were printed on our practice shirts - WIN - so our focus was clear from the start. Our goal all season had been to win the state tournament and to accomplish that goal was extremely fulfilling and made us all very proud. Similarly, winning the gold medal for the U.S. Youth National team marked the accomplishment of a goal I had since I started playing volleyball. When I first heard of the Youth National team, I dreamed of being able to represent my country in another country and ever since then, my dream has turned into reality. Both championships were amazing experiences and I wouldn't trade them for anything.
TBO: Were you able to tour Guatemala City? Can you describe the city?
BURGESS: While on the trip, five teammates and I got some kind of stomach virus and weren't able to tour Guatemala City with the rest of the team. The team and I did have a chance to do a little shopping nearby which was a really fun experience because "money talks" in Guatemala. The people were very nice and were always willing to talk to us and endure conversations when we used our broken Spanish-speaking abilities. The country as a whole is experiencing a lot of poverty. It was unsettling to observe first-hand the kind of poverty that people just like us endure everyday. For example, houses on the side of hills were built with tin roofs and plywood walls. It was not uncommon to see civilians armed with machine guns guarding stores, and children sitting next to their mothers on street corners weaving bracelets to sell to tourists. On a lighter note, I noticed a McDonald's delivery motorcycle that was pretty awesome. Overall, experiencing the culture in Guatemala was an enlightening experience that opened my eyes to a different way of life.
TBO: What have you gained/learned from this experience?
BURGESS: This experience was amazing and made me realize that in order to be competitive in international volleyball I need to step up my game. The level of play at upcoming tournaments will only get higher, which means that my game needs to improve as well. Playing in a USA jersey with 'Burgess' written on the back was a dream come true. The experience has made me all the more eager to work hard and hopefully bring home another gold with Team USA.