Home College 2022 SUNY Potsdam Hall of Fame Inductee: Jordan Ott

2022 SUNY Potsdam Hall of Fame Inductee: Jordan Ott

By Daniel H Bronson

There have been many legendary athletes to wear a SUNY Potsdam jersey, but Jordan Ott ’17 was clearly among the very best of the best. The Hilton, N.Y. native broke nearly every offensive record for the Bears women’s hockey team during its NCAA-era as well as Potsdam’s softball program. Ott then became the Bears’ first professional women’s hockey player and head softball coach shortly after graduation. After overcoming a daunting personal challenge, Ott is now healthy and focused on building the women’s hockey program at King’s College in Pennsylvania.

Like most successful athletes, Ott started very young. Her father got her on the ice at age three. She played hockey with boys until she was in middle school.

“I really started to realize that I was good enough to play college hockey when I started to play girls hockey, because playing with the boys a lot of times I was smaller or a little behind the curve,” said Ott. “But I kind of realized that compared to other girls, I was pretty good.

Ott had a similar experience with softball.

“I played baseball growing up actually,” Ott said. “When I went to seventh grade, I wanted to try out for the baseball team, but they wouldn’t let me because I was a girl,”

After attending a softball camp, Hilton’s varsity coach asked her if she wanted to play for the team as a seventh grader. Wanting to adjust to middle school, she delayed joining varsity until eighth grade.

“I actually I never really put a ton of work into softball (before college), which is kind of bad,” said Ott. “I kind of just naturally was good at it. So I just would show up and do my thing. And I had a really good time playing high school and club softball. I kind of always knew that I had a future with that. But hockey was my number one sport growing up. I really wanted to play hockey.”

Hilton didn’t have a high school girls hockey team at the time so Ott continued her development as a good player surrounded by other good players on the Rochester Edge. It wasn’t long before she drew the attention of college coaches. She considered opportunities with Division I programs at Colgate and Princeton and as well as Division III schools Middlebury, Elmira, Oswego and of course the Bears. Ott focused on schools that had teacher education programs and weren’t too far from home. She also wanted the chance to play both of her sports for four years and make an impact. It was the personal touch from Potsdam that won her over.

“I had a really great overnight visit at Potsdam,” Ott said. “I stayed with Katie Marsman ’16 and Rachel Grefke ’16 and they were  just awesome. They’re awesome people. I had a really good time with that.”

Her two future coaches made strong efforts two sway her towards Potsdam as well.

“I also got a really awesome vibe from Coach (Jay) Green and Coach (Shannon) Dillabough,” said Ott. “They were the only coaches that made a conscious effort to come see me play more than once. Coach Dillabough was at several tournaments and made a point to talk to me and my family after the games, which we really appreciated. Coach Green talked my dad’s ear off at multiple tournaments. My dad really liked him because he really knows the game and understood my style of play. So my dad was really sold on Potsdam and I definitely agreed. Coach Green would call me all the time and talk to me. So it ended up being the place where I felt the most wanted, which is really what I was looking for.”

Finally sold on Potsdam, Ott arrived on campus in August 2013. Despite her confidence and ability, she still worked to overcome some nerves.

“Maxcy was still under construction the fall that I got there, so our first couple practices were at Clarkson,” Ott said. “I remember we went for a pre-season skate and we got on the ice for the first time and I was shaking. I’m not a nervous person. I actually really like pressure situations and I was shaking on the ice. I was like, oh my gosh, this is crazy. What are we getting into? And it took me the first practice to be like, okay, I can I can fit in here. I can do this.”

Maxcy Ice Arena, originally completed in the early 1970’s, was nearly finished with a complete renovation prior to the 2013-14 hockey season. Ott and her Bears teammates were going to play the first game in “brand new” rink, putting them in a bigger spotlight than usual. She felt the same nerves as the team prepared to take the ice.

“I’ve never really experienced the butterflies in the stomach thing until getting ready for our first game. I was so nervous.”

Fortunately, the butterflies didn’t last very long. At 12:21 of the first period, Ott buried the first goal of her collegiate career, setting Potsdam on its way to a 4-3 victory over Saint Michael’s on November 2. It was an important goal for the herself and her team, but she admits it wasn’t exactly how she planned it.

“I remember somehow coming around the back of the net and got the puck,” Ott said. “My initial thought was, just get it to the net. So I came around on my forehand side and was facing the benches, spun and threw it towards the goalie. I meant to shoot it high and whiffed on it. And I think the goalie expected me to go high too and it kind of just dribbled between her legs. So I always think about that goal because it is a really cool memory to have of scoring the first goal in Maxcy. So every time I think about it, it wasn’t a really hard shot.”

Pretty or not, Ott credits the goal for putting her on the right track.

“It was really a cool experience of having that immediate success,” said Ott. “I always wonder if I hadn’t scored there, would things have gone the way they did. If I hadn’t had that immediate success and felt that excitement, would things have gone exactly the same? So it is a really cool moment. My parents were there and my family was there, so it was awesome to start out on the right path.”

Ott also had an assist in the season-opening win against the Purple Knights, earning her the first of eight ECAC West Rookie of the Week honors. She then continued her fast start against Oswego a week later. She scored the contest’s first two goals in a 3-2 win. As the season progressed, Ott added more and more highlights into her freshman campaign. She scored twice in a 4-1 win over Canton and did the same in a 4-3 victory at Buffalo State. Ott registered a hat trick and an assist in two 4-4 ties with Neumann and Utica. However, Ott’s most dramatic effort came against Chatham on January 25, 2014. The Bears and Cougars traded leads throughout the game. Potsdam found itself down 3-2 with 30 seconds left and Ott one -timed the puck into the net to tie the game. Then just 31 seconds into overtime, she buried a rebound to give the Bears the win.

As a freshman Ott was surrounded by talented seniors like Brittany and Amanda Lucky ’14 and Jessica Silveira ’14, which helped her put up big numbers.

“I would not have had the year that I had as a freshman without Amanda Lucky,” Ott said. “But also Jess playing on our line as well. And a large part of the point success that year was power-play goals. I can’t tell you how many of those Brittany shot and I just stood in front and tipped. To have people around you that were that good, it makes my job easier as a freshman when I’m playing with two seniors. They were super nice to me and helped me out with things. It was really easy to make a transition from such a high travel level team to playing with those guys. All three of us could have probably played at the next level and Amanda did. So it was really awesome to have teammates like that.”

The season came to a close with a tough road loss in the playoffs at Utica. However, Ott had set the NCAA era single-season Potsdam scoring record with 36 points, matching Silveira. She had 22 goals, the most by a freshman in the nation that season, and 14 assists. Ott also had a program-best nine power-play goals. The performance earned her ECAC West Rookie of the Year honors and second team all-conference recognition. Just over a month later. US College Hockey Online (uscho.com) named her its national Division III Women’s Hockey Rookie of the Year.

“None of those things come without those other people,” said Ott. “And the numbers prove it. I also think that it motivated me too, for the rest of my career. I set the standard for myself so high that I’m sure if you talk to Jay or talk to anybody, I was my own worst critic always. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform and to make sure that when the team needed me, I was clutch when it needed to happen. So I think that winning all those things, I really wanted to continue to hold myself to that high standard and represent the program well.

Her family was extremely proud of her accomplishments as well.

“I think that my dad honestly shared the articles for Rookie of the Year with hundreds of people,” Ott said. “Every single family member that I had got the link texted to them. He was so proud he had it printed out and my parents had it on their desks at work. And so it was really awesome because they put all that time and money into hockey growing up and had it pay off. It felt really great to have that to give back to them and have that memory. It was really cool.”

Before the hockey season had ended, Ott was already practicing with the softball team as much as possible, again trying to shake off any nerves.

“It was a totally different vibe going from hockey to softball,” said Ott. “And the team was different. Obviously, different personalities. My role on the team was different. We had really good leadership on the hockey team. I kind of immediately saw myself a little bit more as a leader with softball. I think that the confidence from the hockey season obviously played into it. But Coach Dillabough was great and it was just it was really interesting to see how I matched with a new group of people. Again, I had no expectations of myself. I was just expecting to show up, play and do my thing, which I have always just kind of done.”

She made her debut on the diamond against Amherst in Florida on March 21. The Bears struggled in a loss to the Mammoths, managing just two hits. Ott had both, including a leadoff single in her first collegiate at-bat. She also stole a base. The next day, the Bears shortstop had three hits against Kalamazoo, setting the tone for the rest of the season. Ott had 11 multi-hit games as a freshman, including a three-hit performance in a the second game of a doubleheader sweep over SUNYAC rival New Paltz. She finished her first season with a .341 batting average, 31 hits, 10 doubles, 10 runs, 49 total bases and six stolen bases, leading the Bears in each category. The breakout season earned her second team All-SUNYAC honors.

Despite just a sophomore during the 2014-15 year, Ott headed into both her sports seasons as an accomplished veteran and team leader. While the hockey team fell short of the postseason, the forward led the team in scoring again with 10 goals and 12 assist for 22 points. She buried the game-winner in a 4-3 overtime victory at Canton in the season finale. Ott earned honorable mention All-ECAC West honors to close the year.

The softball season saw more transition for Ott, as the team had a new head coach in Nicole Yost. While the two are very good friends now, there was an adjustment period as coach and player.

“When Coach Dillabough left I obviously I wasn’t expecting it,” Ott said. “So anytime you change coaches, there’s always a little bit of nerves as far as are they going to like me? Are they going to keep me or are they going to cut me? Obviously, playing two sports at Potsdam was what brought me to Potsdam. So the fear, I guess, of not having that was a little bit hard for me and obviously not knowing her. I’ve always had male coaches, I’ve never had a female coach before her. So I was nervous about how that was going to go. So it was just a lot of unknowns. And when she kind of came in, it was me trying to feel out how assertive to be and how much of a lead to take without feeling like I was stepping on her toes. So there was a little bit of feeling each other out. We had a lot of conversations about how to balance each other out effectively and by the end of the season and by the end of my time there we had a really, really great relationship.”

The shortstop was better than ever in the spring of 2015. Ott hit a career-high .429 on 42 hits, 22 runs, seven doubles, three triples, two homeruns and five stolen bases. She also posted a personal best .924 fielding percentage. Ott earned first team all-conference honors for the first time as well as National Fast Pitch Coaches Association Division III Northeast All-Region.

Ott continued to impress as a junior. She recorded 15 goals and 11 assists for 26 points on the ice. She repeated as honorable mention All-ECAC West and claimed third team USCHO and D3hockey.com accolades. On the diamond, Ott batted .387 on a career-high 48 hits, 36 runs, 11 doubles, four home runs and nine stolen bases. She picked up first team All-SUNYAC honors and NFCA All-Region for the second straight year.

Surrounded by young talent, Ott guided the Bears women’s hockey team back to the playoffs during her senior 2016-17 season. In a 5-1 win at Cortland on November 5, she recorded a career-high five points on three goals and two assists to tie the program’s NCAA era scoring record of 93 points. A week later, an assist in a victory over Buffalo State established a new mark. The same Bengals handed the Bears a first round playoff loss to close out the season. However, Ott registered 14 goals, including six on the power play, and nine assists for 23 points. She was named second team All-ECAC West for a second time. She finished her Bears hockey career with NCAA-era program records in points (107), goals (61), points-per-game (1.06) and power-play goals (18) as well as four all-conference nods and three national honors.

In her final softball season, Ott batted .333 on 35 hits, 21 runs, seven doubles, three homeruns and eight stolen bases. She finished her career on the diamond as the program’s all-time leader in hits (156), on-base percentage (.445), slugging percentage (.579), at bats (418), runs scored (89), doubles (35), triples (12), total bases (242) and walks (53). She is second in batting average (.373) and RBI (60) and fourth in stolen bases (28) and home runs (9).

Ott was naturally gifted, driven and surrounded by talented teammates and friends, but close relationships with her coaches certainly helped her reach new heights.

“(Nicole Yost) is somebody that would do anything for you on or off the field,” Ott said. “And She really cares about the success of the players. And so it was really awesome to have somebody and see somebody really dedicated to making the program better. It was fun to see somebody come in and bring some youthful energy.”

Ott is also very appreciative for her experience with Jay Green.

“Jay is one of the nicest and kindest human beings I’ve ever, ever had the opportunity of meeting,” said Ott. “I think that that’s what appealed to me about him, going through the recruiting process. He would talk to my parents. He remembers things about you that you mentioned one time in a conversation. I remember I dislocated my shoulder really badly when I was a senior in high school after I had committed to Potsdam. And the only thing I cared about was getting to play hockey. And I remember calling him all but in tears, and he made some stupid joke on the phone of course, and didn’t even care. He didn’t even didn’t mention anything about hockey. All he wanted to know was how I was doing. And he asked me about the Sabres and the Yankees because he knew that I like them. He didn’t even mention anything about the possibility of not wanting me anymore. And so he’s just a really reassuring guy. He and I are probably two of the most stubborn people on the face of the earth. We both butted heads at times. And I think a lot of that was just purely due to what I said, that I would trade everything that happened at Potsdam to win. And I think that we both wanted to win so badly. And he also knew that I was my own worst critic. So there were days where I’d really get on myself and he wanted me to not do that. So think that the times where we might have not seen eye to eye, it was, me motivating myself in a way that he didn’t think was the most beneficial. That obviously helped me in the long run, of understanding my own limits and making sure that I’m giving myself positive reinforcement. The relationship goes way beyond the ice and it’s really appreciated.”

As talented an athlete as Ott was, she was even better in the classroom. She was a member of the SUNYAC All-Academic Team in each of her four years as well as a member of the Commissioner’s List in each of the three years she was eligible. Three times Ott earned a spot on the ECAC West All-Academic Team. Twice she was a member of the Capital One Academic All-District 3 softball first team. Ott was the 2015-16 SUNY Chancellor’s Scholar-Athlete for Softball and a 2016 NFCA Scholar Athlete. She then capped her time at Potsdam by claiming the 2016-17 Maxcy/Molnar Award for the top senior female student-athlete.

With her playing career seemingly over, Ott considered what she would do next.

“Sports have been my whole life forever,” Ott said. “So I remember finishing our last softball game and just crying and my dad was there hugging me. The only thing that I remember saying to him is what am I going to do with all my time? I’m not going to have sports.”

Fortunately, Yost was looking for an assistant coach and offered her the position once she knew she was interested. As she learned about the job, she realized that she could make it a career.

However, Ott’s playing career wasn’t over yet and she made the most of the opportunity to return to the ice when it came along.

“When I started college there was no women’s professional (hockey) league,” said Ott. “So it was really cool to actually have an opportunity to play beyond school once I finished softball season. And you’re at that age where you’re still physically in your prime but, you’re kind of forced to give it up. And I really wasn’t ready to.”

Ott filled out an online form for the National Women’s Hockey League, now the Premier Hockey Federation, and received an invitation to free agent camp. Ott was not expecting much from the tryout other than enjoying the experience. The tryout featured a wide variety of players, ranging from veteran pros to different levels of college players. Ott fit in well with her competitors during the camp.

“So I just kind of went and skated hard,” Ott said. “And one of the people that was on the ice was Lisa Chesson, a former Olympian who was actually on the Buffalo Beauts. Then we ended up doing a drill against each other. It was one-on-one and I ended up scoring. And she came right over to me and I kind of fangirled for a second because I don’t think she realized that knew who she was. It was really cool to have that opportunity.”

In the locker room after the tryout, Ott was called over and offered a contract on the spot. She asked the Beauts, who were the defending Isobel Cup Champions at the time, if she could let them know tomorrow. Ott then excitedly called her mom and cleared the opportunity with Yost. She became Potsdam women’s hockey’s first professional player the next day.

It was a busy fall and winter for Ott, all the while working on her master’s degree.

“I was in Potsdam for fall ball, obviously that’s normally in the month of September,” said Ott. “And then I actually I went home during the winter to Rochester and was going to Buffalo for practices and games, probably three or four times a week. And then if we had recruits or stuff that Yost needed me for in Potsdam, I would drive back. But I was pretty much in Rochester until pre-season started for softball in February. When February rolled around, I talked to the Beauts coaches too and I told them I’m not going to be able to make every practice. And that if they wanted me to play in the game, let me know. I can either drive myself to the game or I can meet them somewhere. There was a time I met the bus in Syracuse when we were going in New Jersey for a game. I drove myself to Buffalo for one of the games at one point. Once we started (softball) games, the hockey season was winding down and there were playoff games that I wasn’t in the lineup for anyway, so I would keep track of the game online. It ended up working out really cool. It was a great opportunity that I’ll be able to tell my kids about one day. I got the best of both worlds.”

Ott played in seven of the Beauts 16 games during the 2017-18 campaign and recorded two assists in her lone professional season.

After the 2018 Bears softball season, Yost left to take another position and Ott officially ascended to head coach in November. It was yet another goal she was happy to achieve, but she knew she had a lot more to learn.

“Obviously it’s great to get to run your own show,” Ott said. “But at the same time, I felt utterly unprepared just because the year before I was half in Rochester, I was half in Buffalo, I was half in Potsdam. I learned a bunch, but I didn’t do everything with Yost. She did a lot of the Florida planning and other stuff that I did virtually. I didn’t partake in a lot of the recruitment because I was in Rochester. I knew I could coach it as far as teaching kids how to field a ground ball or hit or whatever. I knew I could get through fall ball just fine. But I didn’t really know if I was ready or wanted the responsibility of being a head coach right away. At the same time, though, I knew that head coaching experience of any type was going to help me get a job someplace else, whether it be hockey or softball.”

Having experienced a coaching transition as a Bears player, Ott now led one as a Bears coach. She navigated her way through a full season in 2018-19. That season and the following one, she also served as Potsdam’s assistant director of athletic communications. In that role, Ott assisted with media relations for all of the athletic department’s teams. She also served as the primary scorekeeper for men’s and women’s soccer and ice hockey with as much skill as she had shown as a player herself. She juggled early softball morning winter practices with afternoon and evening hockey games, adeptly handling both. In March 2020, Ott was in Florida with her team when the season was shut down due to the pandemic. Potsdam defeated Penn State-Hazleton 3-2 on March 12 for the final win of her Bears career. In May of that year, she accepted the head coaching position for King’s College women’s ice hockey.

Ott headed to Wilkes-Barre to make her mark on another young program, while navigating the pandemic. After the 2020-21 hockey season was canceled, she was preparing for her first true season as a head hockey coach. However, in July 2021 Ott was diagnosed with stage two invasive ductal carcinoma. A gumball sized tumor was found in her right side. Ott briefly went home to be with family while she made decisions about treatment, health care and her job.

“My parents had been considering selling their house in Rochester for a while just because my sister and I are both down here,” said Ott. “They ended up moving to Pennsylvania and not necessarily motivated by me being sick, but a huge part of it.  Without them doing that, I wouldn’t have made it through last year with my job. It was it was awesome having them.”

With the support of her new athletic director, her players, her sister Braeden who is one of her assistant coaches, and her parents nearby, Ott went on the attack. She started chemotherapy at the end of August and finished in February. She temporarily lost her hair and battled pneumonia, but managed to make all but one game and most practices during the season. Sometimes she was forced to coach from the penalty box without the strength to skate, but her assistants, especially Braeden, helped her through. In March, Ott had preventative surgery and she was declared cancer free. She is still receiving immunotherapy injections each week, but is working back to full strength.

“Obviously with the medicine and stuff, you gain weight and you can’t do very much,” Ott said. “So I’m starting to get myself back into the gym. Being active is just something that I’ve always done, though not being that way, you kind of feel sluggish. My hair is growing back and all the good stuff that comes with that. You’re not in that chemo fog. You’re much more mentally with it. Day to day activities are easier. Walking up the stairs doesn’t wind me anymore.”

Ott is looking forward to her 2022-23 season with the Monarchs. She has recruited a large group of freshmen and some talented transfers and has a good number of returning players with a year of experience. She’s felt well enough to get out and recruit as well as run camps and clinics recently. In addition to returning to Potsdam for the induction ceremony, Ott will lead her team into Maxcy on November 25-26 for a two-game series with her alma mater.

She will be inducted into the Bears Hall Fame on Saturday night.

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