Thompson starts season with sweep of defending 6A champ

By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

ALABASTER – After months of anxious anticipation, Judy Green’s Thompson Warriors finally took the court to kick off the 2020 volleyball season, as they played host to 6A No. 3 and two-time defending state champion Spanish Fort on Thursday, Aug. 20.

After so much hard work heading into the match, there was no way of telling if it all would be validated, but Thompson showed serious championship mettle and swept the visiting Toros 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-14).

“Number one: how fun it was to play volleyball today. We got to game day. You know, back in the summer we didn’t know if we’d get to game day. We had no idea,” Green said. “There were times when we just talked through everything. We just kept saying, ‘Be flexible, let’s have a championship mindset. If this is the only day we get, we’re going to make the most of it.’ Today we made the most of our opportunity against a very good team.”

The weeks of preparation in the summer were evident from the opening serve as the Warriors took a 3-2 lead in the first set and held it the rest of the way.

Kelsey Tangle’s trick shot kill gave Thompson some breathing room in the set up 19-14, but Spanish Fort battled back with three straight points to cut the lead in half.

Then, it was time for Briana Wilson to step up as she sent a couple of late kills to the hardwood to preserve the lead and take the first set 25-19.

The second set was a tightly-contested battle, as neither team led by more than four in the period. Jada White’s play up front was big thanks to several blocked shots with her team clinging to small leads.

The Warriors took a four-point lead three times, but the scrappy Toros didn’t back down and closed on the lead each time.

Wilson was excellent again in the set, collecting several more kills, but the crucial second frame was decided in its waning moments.

Up 23-22, the Warriors handled a serve that floated toward Tangle at the net. Tangle, a setter in most cases, once again used the element of surprise and slapped the team’s second touch over the net for a two-point lead Thompson closed out the set on the next play.

“Kelsey’s a great quarterback on the floor and she ran a really good offense today,” Green said. “It was efficient, it was executed well and she made great choices.”

The Warriors dominated the third and final set jumping out to a 17-7 lead and cruising the rest of the way.

“This team has a good chemistry. They love each other, they respect each other. They really don’t care who gets the credit,” Green said. “I think there’s great leadership from our older players and seniors because they share. They’re all servant leaders, not people who are just looking to take. They’ve shown outrageous love to our team and when you do that as a senior you earn the respect of your team.”

Wilson led the Warriors in the opening match with nine kills and several sprawling digs to keep points alive for her team.

“She’s one of the best six rotation players in the state of Alabama,” Green said. “Bri has to be creative because she’s small, but she’s super athletic and we just tried to weave some different things into our offensive fabric. We don’t want to look like we did last year so we’re trying some new things and being more creative with our offense. It was good today, it was smooth.”

Thompson will celebrate the win, but also cherish the moment as uncertainty continues to hover over the 2020 sports season and beyond.

“What a fun way to open our season and if today is the last day we get to play for 14 days, we’re going to be happy,” Green said, smiling. “We left everything we had on the floor. Everybody contributed today and we said we’re all in.”