Comeback Season: Thompson Volleyball Set to Host Area 5 Tournament
Coming into the 2023 season, the Warriors just wanted to leave last year in the past. And while a lot of programs can talk a good game, Thompson put action behind their words this Fall.
So much so, in fact, they are about to do something that hadn’t been accomplished in the Judy Green era: host an area tournament.
More than any year since Green’s arrival, the collective effort and contributions from so many spots on the roster has been the main factor that’s contributed to the team’s success.
“I do believe that the one thing that separates us from almost every team that we have played is that we will win the energy war with you” says Green. “So if you step on the court to play Thompson, you’re not just getting the six players on the court, you’re getting 15 strong and we take that very personal.”
Every season has its ups and downs, but the club’s leadership has done an exceptional job of taking setbacks and using them to improve the unit overall.
Senior libero Abby Faith Campbell has come on strong down the stretch of the season. An injury in the offseason hampered her to begin the new year, but as one of the team’s leaders, turned a negative into a net positive for the team.
“One of the things she did extraordinarily well when she wasn’t able to play was nurturing Kenzly Foote,” says Green. “Once she got healthy, now you put them on the floor together and you have a dynamite back row defense, I️ call it an elite level defense.”
The numbers this year back it up as well. Foote, playing in Campbell’s stead for a good portion of the year, leads the team in digs with 407 while Campbell has added up 248 as she resettles into her position.
The front line has also vastly improved on offense and defense as the season has progressed. Middle hitters like Annie Shelby, Hannah Drexel and Terrin Haynes have turned the position into a bonafide threat.
“Annie brings a very competitive spirit to the floor. She’s a large presence on the floor from a blocking standpoint,” says Green. “She’s strong, has great hands and has a background as a soccer goalie. Both she and Hannah Drexel have worked so hard in practice to continue the balance of our offense.”
That balance is so key as the Warriors continue to find ways to make themselves a multifaceted threat on offense. Thompson’s strength continues to come from the outside as seniors Chloe Mittelstadt and Ella Southern lead the team in kills with 404 and 175, respectively.
“We have a double threat there on the pins. Teams can’t just lay their focus on one particular player, now you have to defend the whole net,” says Green. “That’s where our offense has evolved. This is, by far, our best offensive team I’ve coached in nine years.”
Senior setter Olivia Kelly in the summer’s North-South All-Star game and is following that up with a stellar season leading the team in assists (838) and second in service aces (54). Coach Green believes her ability to grow on-floor chemistry with her new teammates throughout the year has been one of her and the team’s biggest assets.
“She has the knack for finding the right person at the right time. Her relationship with the middles has grown tremendously and there's a high level of trust there,” says Green. “So I️ think it’s difficult to defend us if we’re passing well, because we have enough offensive tools where we can make it hard on you.”
As the postseason begins and the level of competition rises, Green wants her players to continue to look in the mirror and focus on the team alone.
“Coming into practice every day with a purpose, getting one percent better that particular day and not looking past that day,” says Green. “I️ tell our team all the time, ‘We need to do us, we need to be who we are, we don’t want to be like anybody else’ because when we do us that’s when we are at our best. When we play with our personality, our energy and our speed.”
That mindset has driven the Warriors to this point as they hold the no. 1 seed in the area tournament, and the consistency from here on out will determine the true ceiling of what this squad is capable of. But if the leadership and dedication seen during the season is any indication, all of Thompson’s goals are within their grasp.
“I️ still continue to see players walk into the gym 30 to 40 minutes early and work on their game on their own,” says Green. “That tells me we’re good. They take ownership of it. A player-led team is better than a coach-led team any day.”