Thompson Volleyball Regaining Competitive Edge, Eye Postseason Return in 2023
2022 was a tough season for Thompson volleyball, but it’s a relative blip on the radar of Judy Green’s tenure in Alabaster. The Warriors have won well over 60% of their matches since her arrival in 2015.
The Warriors have begun the 2023 season with a strong 9-2 start, including a championship appearance in the River City Classic back in August, Coach Green’s 1000th career win and a no. 7 ranking in Class 7A.
But years of consecutive postseason runs came to an end with Coach Green and her Warriors going into the offseason feeling a sting the program hadn’t felt in quite some time.
“We were greatly disappointed with last year when we didn’t advance out of the area tournament when we had done that for so long,” said Green.
“We’ve talked a lot about developing a competitive personality over the summer. Who are we going to be when we walk on the floor and what can the other team expect from Thompson every single day?”
There was some soul searching and ultimately the coaching staff looked inward, considering things they could do to help the players connect to the team.
“Everybody wants to feel like they’re a valued member of the team and I feel that, as coaches, we didn’t do a good job of that last year and it kind of bit us in the backside in the end, but not this year. We have our plan and we’ll continue to implement it during the season.”
This team is heavy on upperclassmen. In fact, Green’s senior class occupies ten of her 15 roster spots and they’re ready to put last season in the rear view mirror.
Senior Abby Faith Campbell landed an All-County nod last year and talked at media days about how this Thompson team will be different.
“Playing together and cheering each other on,” said Campbell. “We’re so excited. I️ think we’re ready to move on from last season and leave it in the past. Take what we’ve learned, but place it in this season and get better.”
The Warriors battled through a challenging offseason schedule to keep them sharp while the coaching staff began to identify roles for their players.
“The summer was very good for us, I think we were able to build off of the off-season really well,” said Green. “We got a lot of playing opportunities, the Foley Tournament was great, we got a chance to play some good teams and figure out where some of the pieces land.”
Starting setter Olivia Kelly broke out last year landing on the All-County first team and was named to the North-South All-Star roster back in January. Over the summer, Olivia played with and against the best players the state has to offer and came out of it with an unforgettable experience.
“It was a great opportunity to have, I️ learned so much from it,” says Olivia. “Getting to work under different coaches, learn different playing styles and meeting players from all over the state.”
Kelly, who recently celebrated her 1,000th assist, will be one of the leaders counted upon to lead the Warriors back to the postseason, but Area 5 has become even more treacherous. Reclassification in 2022 added top 5 opponent Vestavia Hills to a division that already had 2021 state champ Hoover.
“The quality of coaching that exists in our area is crazy good,” says Green. “And you know how it plays out. Not all the best teams make it to the state tournament, but it’s about us and what we need to do to be our best on gameday.”
That’s fine by Judy Green.
“I️ like the fact that you have to show up every day and perform, there’s no off days in our area which is fantastic because sometimes that lulls you into a false positive that you don’t have to work as hard.”
The coaching staff has been hard at work finding new ways to attack and they’ll come from different directions than last year, bringing more stability to the offense.
“Our offense won’t go through the middle this year, we are certainly more well balanced and we’ve made that a priority,” says Green. “We don’t want to be a one-dimensional team so I think we’ll spread the wealth because we’re pretty stellar on the pins.”
The Warriors are squarely focused on writing a new chapter in the playoffs. Considering the program pedigree, it’d be misguided to bet against them.