Thompson Volleyball Ranked and Reloading for Run in 2022
Last year, Judy Green and her Warriors caught a glimpse of the mountaintop. Thompson held a 2-1 set advantage in the semifinals and took eventual state runner-up McGill-Toolen to the brink in a five set thriller, but fell in the final frame to end the season.
It was the second straight trip to the Final 4 and the third straight championship tournament appearance for a special 2022 senior class that boasted multiple All-State and All-County selections with several earning scholarships to play collegiately.
“We lost a lot. Not only just in their abilities to play volleyball, but that senior class led in so many ways,” says Green. “Of course our underclassmen got overshadowed by eight talented seniors, but now is their time to rise and shine. And I️ think all of them are ready to do that.”
However, replacing that skill and leadership isn’t the term Coach Green is using to describe her task for a fast-approaching new season.
“The way we kind of look at it now is we’re not rebuilding, we’re just reloading,” says Green. “The greatest teacher for this group throughout the summer was gaining experience and playing with one another. I️ felt like the playing opportunities we got this summer were very good for us.”
Eight years into her tenure at Thompson, Green is not short on developed talent. The program’s junior varsity squads have won multiple metro championships and both the coaches and players’ expectations are to continue that winning culture despite the turnover.
“Obviously, we have a lot of new faces. It’s probably the most flexible team I’ve had, we’ve got multiple pieces that can play a lot of different places,” says Green. “We worked really hard on developing relationships in the spring.”
The returning faces of the program are seniors Kaitlyn Grant, Hannah Fincher and Cydney Mitchell. Grant made the All-County first team last year despite some time missed with an injury and her potential is limitless as a shoe-in to play at the next level.
“She played on a very skilled club team, so I think that was invaluable for her,” says Green. “She has the physical ability to take over a match. I️ want to see Kaitlyn Grant make a statement like she’s got something to prove.”
Fincher is described as an even keeled player who not only possesses skill at the net, but also returns as one of the Warriors’ best servers.
“Hannah was that player that was your constant, steady player you knew every day what you were going to get,” says Green. “Always in the zone, always working hard for her teammates and consistent with her emotions. Great leader, great perspective on the game and when she returns she will be a leader that can be counted on in games.”
Mitchell already has a full ride to Mississippi College, had one of the best offseasons on the team and her athleticism is unquestioned. The most versatile attacker on the team, playing every position along the net and when she’s paired with Grant they are one of the most imposing defensive duos Green has ever coached.
“Probably the most improved player we have from last year to this year. She is a tireless worker,” says Green. “She’s the kid who goes to a two hour practice, goes to weights and then spends 45 more minutes in the gym working on her game. She has a lot of leadership ability.”
Even as All-State setter Madison Touhey moves on to the next level of her career, the Warriors finds themselves in a fortunate position finding the next person to run their offense.
“We have two really good setters, they’re both juniors. Emmy Grey, who was our starting setter for the junior varsity last year and we have Olivia Kelly back in the program,” says Green. “I️ don’t think we’re going to skip a beat when it comes to setting, which is a wonderful gift.”
Several former players coming back to the program after taking time off has also given Thompson a boost as they bridge the gap to the upcoming season. In addition to Kelly, Abby Faith Campbell will also provide great support on defense as the starting libero this year.
“We believe that it's special to play for your school and your community and you only have so many years to do that,” says Green. “I’m so thankful that Olivia and Abby Faith felt that the door was open for them to come back and be able to experience that again—and they’re thriving.”
Abby Faith is a special, special player. She is a dynamic player in that position and she’s been working really hard on improving her overall game, but she’s highly skilled and a really fun player to watch.”
Cydney Mitchell can also play at outside hitter, but with the losses of All-State performer Bri Wilson, Caroline Canady and Baylee Southern at the position have the coaching staff searching for someone to solidify the other side.
Ella Southern, Taylor Roberson and Katie McClain and April Burgess have been battling for the position so depth is certainly not an issue. Burgess transferred to Thompson in the off-season from Athens, brings starting experience and has already accepted an offer from Wallace Hanceville to extend her career to the next level.
One last key addition to the squad came on the coaching staff and, according to Coach Green, it’s changed the entire program.
“We got the privilege to hire Simeon Castille to work with our girls in the offseason,” says Green. “Best thing that ever happened to us. His program was about becoming the best athlete you can be and I’ve seen a transformation in all our kids.”
Castille, a state champion alumnus of Briarwood Christian Academy, played college ball at Alabama and now runs Stille Academy in Pelham. His training methods have led to incredible progress for the Warriors in just a short period of time.
Timely additions, leaders with unlimited potential and an impressive overhaul of Thompson’s conditioning program point to the Warriors continued relevance amongst Alabama’s elite clubs as they proceed on their consistent ascent to the top.