Warriors Outlast, Upset 7A #1 Spain Park in Five Sets
The two top volleyball squads in Class 7A squared off Tuesday, September 14 as the no. 2 ranked Thompson Warriors welcomed the no. 1 ranked Spain Park Jaguars to Warrior Arena. The two schools battled for more than two hours in a marathon five-set match, but the Warriors emerged with the win 25-21, 21-25, 25-15, 17-25, 15-11. The victory gives Judy Green her fourth upset of a no. 1 ranked team in her tenure at Thompson.
Thompson (12-6, 1-1) had already faced the Jaguars in the Juanita Boddie Tournament back in late August and were swept 2-0 by the eventual tournament champions. They were also coming off a gut-wrenching five-set area loss to Hoover, but Green’s Warriors put the losses aside and got back to work.
“I think the most important thing is we got back in the gym and got better,” said Green after the win. “We worked really hard for two days in practice, probably the hardest we’ve worked in a long time. When you play good teams they expose your weaknesses and Hoover helped us learn something so tonight we were much better defensively. Tonight we won the serve and pass game and it helped our offense be very successful.”
Spain Park (18-4, 2-0) looked every bit the best team in the state in the beginning, jumping all over the Warriors with an 11-4 run to open the first set. Senior outside hitter Audrey Rothman was unstoppable at the net scoring four of her team’s first six points, but Briana Wilson and Thompson didn’t back down. After a 7-2 run of their own to draw within two, the county foes traded shots for the remainder of the set.
It would be Thompson who would separate and outscore the Jags 14-8 the rest of the way as Wilson smashed six kills in the set, Caroline Canaday and Kaitlyn Grant added several more each while Jada White and Hannah Fincher each served up an ace.
The Jaguars responded well, running out to a 10-4 lead with Rothman doing more damage at the net. Senior middle blocker Olivia Myers also got involved with several blocks and kills. Thompson was again able to even the odds at 18-18 with strong play from Wilson and outside hitter Baylee Southern, but Spain Park took seven of the final ten points to even the match.
The game’s intensity was given a boost with Thompson and Spain Park’s student sections’ competitive banter filling in breaks in the action all night.
The teams went back and forth in the third set splitting the first 16 points, but Thompson would wrestle the momentum away as the tandem of Wilson and Canaday scored five kills each. Up 18-13, the Warriors would finish off the set with a 7-2 run to put Spain Park’s back against the wall.
But again, the Jags would counter with a big start and finish to a must-win fourth set. Rothman added three more kills in a 5-1 run to start the period and five total with two aces. The Warriors would close the gap to 18-16 as Southern had another key stretch, but errors would lead the way to Spain Park’s 7-1 run to win the set.
Thompson would be faced with adversity again out of the gate with the Jags getting a 3-0 start, but Canaday was clutch again with three kills and a block to help the Warriors take a 6-5 lead.
“I️ thought Cricket (Canaday) offensively played the best she’s played all season,” said Green. “We worked a lot yesterday in practice on them managing their game offensively. You can’t just go and wail on it all the time, you’ve got to find a way to score—scoring a point is more important than you hitting it hard. Baylee (Southern) snuck some balls in there through the seam and the block so holistically, it was a great team effort tonight.”
From there, Thompson’s defense took over. Wilson and senior libero Samia Mason were particularly effective, digging out several big shots from Spain Park’s front line, giving the offense a chance to score. Thompson’s blockers also had a big set blocking shots and diverting others the Jags sent out of bounds.
“Bri’s defense set the tone for us in the fifth set,” said Green. “ I was proud of the way Samia played tonight. She played much better defensively, I thought she read better tonight and she was willing to put on a helmet and dig a ball.“
“We had to work on some relationships on the floor tonight and had to build them in a hotly contested battle. When you’re playing and not being challenged it’s easy to build relationships, this is when you build them: in a tough environment.”
Briana Wilson would lead Thompson with 20 kills, Caroline Canaday came away with 16 while Baylee Southern and Kaitlyn Grant added seven kills apiece.
Madison Touhey led the team with 37 assists. Jada Smith recorded two aces with Touhey, Marlee Windham and Hannah Fincher also scoring from the service spot.
Thompson will be on the road for their next match at 4A no. 3 Montgomery Academy Thursday, September 16 at 5:30 p.m.