On Sept. 24, Stacey Gordon took her place alongside the greatest athletes to ever don scarlet and gray — she was inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame, at the ripe age of 28.
“It’s the most rewarding feeling you can possibly get,” Gordon said of being inducted. “You don’t expect to get it at that age, if at all.”
Gordon played volleyball for the Buckeyes from 2001 to 2004 and in the process re-wrote OSU’s record book with the most prolific career in OSU women’s volleyball history.
Gordon was a four-time All-American for the Buckeyes, the only one in the history of the program. She was named 2001 National Freshman of the Year and 2002 and 2004 Big Ten Player of the Year.
She was twice named Ohio State Female Athlete of the Year in 2003 and 2005. Following her senior year in 2004, Gordon was named AVCA Co-National Player of the Year, as well as Asics/Volleyball Monthly Player of the Year.
Gordon holds records at OSU for kills, kills per game, digs, points and points per game. She is the all-time Big Ten leader and third in NCAA history with 2,978 kills.
Not only was Gordon a dominant force on the court, she excelled in the classroom too. She was a four-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete and three-time Academic All-Big Ten.
To say that Gordon’s career as a volleyball player at OSU was successful might be a bit of an understatement, but her career might have taken a different turn had she stuck with her first love, hockey.
Gordon grew up in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.
“Sports in Canada compared to the United States are different,” Gordon said. “I grew up in a sports family, everyone played hockey.”
She played hockey for 10 years, starting at age 4, but decided her best bet to make it to the next level athletically was either through volleyball or basketball.
Gordon chose volleyball and soon began to excel on the court.
“I tried it out and stuck with it ever since,” she said.
A very highly touted recruit out of high school, Gordon knew she wanted to attend a Big Ten school because of the league’s volleyball prestige.
OSU seemed to be a perfect home for Gordon.
“I knew what OSU had to offer in terms of the volleyball program,” Gordon said. “It just felt like a fit for me — the people, the team.”
After her first trip to campus, Gordon knew there was something special about OSU.
“The pride of being a Buckeye, people don’t really realize until they get to campus what that feeling is,” Gordon said.
She easily adjusted to the college game, earning All-America honors as a freshman and playing a key role for a team that reached the Sweet 16.
“You are a freshman, you don’t even know what awards they give out,” Gordon said of being named All-American her first year on campus. “It’s a great feeling, but a little overwhelming at the same time.”
Heading into her sophomore season, Gordon did not let her accomplishments from the year before go to her head.
“I wasn’t thinking of what kind of awards can I get this year,” Gordon said. “I never really changed my demeanor.”
The team began to look to Gordon as one of the leaders going into her second season.
“Her leadership was more the ‘do as I do’ type of leadership,” former OSU women’s volleyball coach Jim Stone said.
“People, when they see someone play like that, they want to be part of it.”
Gordon led the Buckeyes to a 21-11 and 13th place finish in the final AP women’s volleyball poll that year.
Her junior year at OSU didn’t go as well as the first two, however, as the team finished 11-17 with a disappointing ninth place in the Big Ten. Gordon found herself facing an unfamiliar opponent: adversity.
“It’s one of the hardest things I have been a part of,” Gordon said. “It probably couldn’t get any worse.”
Gordon could tell early on that her final year at OSU would not end up like the previous one. “I knew we had a lot of potential,” Gordon said. “Players were different, attitudes were different.”
She was right. The 2004 team was the most successful that Gordon would play on in her four years as a Buckeye. The team went 30-4, reaching the Elite 8, and Gordon was named to her fourth All-American team.
Team accomplishments always came above individual accomplishments for the always-modest Gordon.
“We were two points away from a Final Four and I would give every award back to have that,” she said. “It was going into the tournament as a team. I look at that as the best part of my senior year.”
Though Gordon might not admit it, athletes of her caliber don’t come around very often.
“She has athletic skill that a lot of kids don’t have,” Stone said. “(Football coach) Jim Tressel made the comment at a banquet that she was the best athlete on campus, regardless of sport.”
Gordon’s success on the court may also be contributed to her competitive personality.
“She did everything 100 mph,” Stone said. “How she was on the court, she was that exact same person off the court.”
Walking off the court her last time as a Buckeye was tough for Gordon.
“It was my last game, it was my best game I played in four years,” Gordon said. “It was a sad time taking the jersey off knowing you are never going to put it on again.”
Once her playing days at OSU were over, Gordon jumped right in to professional volleyball. The life of a pro volleyball player is not always easy, especially because most pro leagues are overseas.
“The life of a pro volleyball player, you learn to live on your own,” Gordon said. She has played in Turkey, Spain and Puerto Rico in the last five years and often has to learn a whole new language when moving from team to team.
“The only thing you know going into a new country is the volleyball,” Gordon said.
Though the experience takes some getting used to, Gordon enjoys taking her talents overseas at the professional level.
“Not a lot of people can say that they have traveled to 10, 11, 12 different countries,” Gordon said. “It’s a whole new life and a whole new experience in itself.”
In the middle of last season, Gordon got an unexpected phone call from OSU, telling her she was part of this year’s induction class for the Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I was in Puerto Rico playing at the time, I was pretty shocked,” Gordon said. “It was pretty cool.”
Gordon returned back to Columbus for the weekend of the OSU vs. Eastern Michigan University football game, where the inductees were given a banquet Friday and recognized on the field at halftime of the game Saturday.
She made a point to visit the Hall of Fame, but it still didn’t sink in that she was part of such an elite group.
“I felt like a tourist, I was taking pictures,” Gordon said.
Being introduced at halftime was just icing on the cake for Gordon.
“It was cool, especially to be recognized in that atmosphere,” Gordon said. “That is the best way they could do it, I think.”
Today, Gordon is preparing for a different type of challenge: a wedding.
“My plans right now are wedding plans,” Gordon said. “Creating a new life with my future husband. It’s a pretty cool outlook; I’m pretty excited about it.”
But it won’t be long until Gordon continues doing what she loves: playing volleyball.
Gordon leads a busy life, but she takes it all in stride.
“Life hands you all kinds of different curves,” Gordon said. “You have to challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone.”
Gordon’s career may lead her all over the world, but she never forgets her time as a Buckeye.
“The laughs, the memories, the victories you share with your teammates,” Gordon said. “I miss those girls more than anything. I miss playing for OSU more than anything.”