It’s hard for T.J. Hagen not to become emotional when he thinks about the final match he will coach with his son, Jordan, in goal.
He’s only been his soccer coach for four years at Mesa High School, but he’s been his mentor his entire life. Through youth and club soccer, the father-son duo has bonded over the game.
They’ve had times of triumph together, most notably beating Brophy this season for the first time in program history. There have also been times where the two may not see eye to eye or have difficult conversations on the car ride home from a tough loss.
But that’s life living with a coach. And Jordan wouldn’t change it for the world.
“It’s been so fun,” Jordan said. “I love playing for my dad. I wanted to help him win some region titles and maybe a state championship this year, we’ll see. That’s what I’m aiming for.”
Jordan’s soccer journey at Mesa began earlier than expected.
As a freshman, T.J. had hoped he would have a year or two to sit and learn behind experienced goalkeepers on the Jackrabbits’ roster from the year prior. But those players decided not to return to the team.
That opened the door for Jordan to immediately become the varsity starter. The role came with pressure, as the older players on the team expected him to succeed. He had 84 saves that season as the Jackrabbits went 14-7-1 overall.
“I knew he could play,” T.J. said. “There were definitely times where maybe somebody else might’ve had a better game if they were in, but you can never know in those situations. There was a group of juniors and seniors that expected a lot out of him because he is the coach’s son.
“But over the last couple of years the growth has been very good.”
Since his freshman season, Jordan has only improved. Year by year he has gotten better in goal, earning postseason awards and honors from the Arizona Interscholastic Association and coaches from region rivals.
But most importantly, he started to become a leader. He began feeling confident in his ability to bark orders from goal to his teammates.
That role carried over to his junior season and has expanded even more as a senior captain.
“It’s his senior year, he’s the starter,” T.J. said. “He had some things to do this year and I think being on the team for three years already gave him the confidence. It’s still always hard for his dad to be the coach, but I’ve always tried to allow him to lead on his own.
“I think he’s done a great job.”
Mesa entered the postseason for the fourth straight season with Jordan in goal this past week. The Jackrabbits, ranked No. 9 in the 6A Conference, hosted No. 24 Corona del Sol in the play-in round.
They’ve been led all season by Jordan’s 67 saves and a trio of forwards and strikers in junior Giovanni Fierro and seniors Pablo Guerrero — who is also a defender on the team — and senior Kevin Ortiz.
The three have combined to score 44 goals this season. Fierro leads the way with 18 of his own. But Meza’s defense has been the bright spot as of late.
Heading into the postseason the Jackrabbits won six of their last seven games and shut out opponents in all six victories. Their only blemish came against rival Mountain View in a 1-0 double-overtime loss.
Overall, after starting the season 1-2-1, the Jackrabbits have lost just three matches. Their play, especially as of late, has brought confidence to the program. But first they had to get through the play-in game.
“It’s win or go home, we have to stay motivated,” Jordan said. “We’ve been on a pretty hot win streak since mid-season. We just have to keep on going with it, keep pushing forward.
“It’s been good defensively, just gotta keep the offense going.”
The Hagens are enjoying every practice, team meeting and game remaining together.
Senior night for T.J. was difficult, though he admits it was more of a joyous moment rather than sad. Jordan agreed.
But the two know that may not be the case when their season comes to an end. It’ll be emotional, both admitted they may have tears in their eyes. But winning a title would alleviate some of the sadness that comes with playing their final game as coach and son.
No matter when the time comes for the duo, they will enjoy the moment and cherish the memories they have made together on the field.
“Just mentioning that to me makes me have a little lump in my throat,” T.J. said. “I’ll probably hug him and have a tear in my eye. I’m hoping they are tears for happy stuff and raising the ball. No matter what happens I’ll be proud of him and proud of what we do as a team.”
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.