Thompson downs Oak Mountain in coaching reunion

By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

ALABASTER – Judy Green’s Warriors were given a run for their money by a familiar face Tuesday, Aug. 25, as former Thompson assistant Grace Burgess made her return to Warrior Arena as head coach of Oak Mountain.

The Eagles played sharp early on and forced the Warriors to the brink for three sets, but Thompson ultimately held serve at home to pick up a 3-1 (25-20, 15-25, 25-22, 25-16) win.

Oak Mountain jumped out to a quick 9-5 lead in the first set on the strength of junior Jayni Thompson’s play at the net, as she peppered in several blocks and kills throughout the set.

However, Thompson slowly crept back into the match taking their first lead at 13-12 behind multiple kills from Sophie Bearden, Briana Wilson and Baylee Southern.

Up 21-19, Wilson turned it up another notch three times in a row with an ace on the back end. Southern then sealed the opening period with her fourth kill.

“I thought Oak Mountain played very disciplined volleyball, they were certainly prepared and ready to play,” Green said. “I think our team was ready to play as well, but we struggled a little bit with ball control early in the first two sets—especially set two.”

The Warriors’ second set saw several unforced errors, but the set was still close midway through with the Eagles up 14-13.

That’s when Oak Mountain seniors Landry Frisch and Lacee Sheaffer saw to it that they got no closer as the Eagles went on to win 11 of the next 13 points to tie the match.

“Our coaching staff has been really big with this group on problem solving on their own in matches,” Green said. “We want them to grow so much that they can play the game without us really being involved. We do our coaching in practice and tonight it was more about managing.”

The Warriors had to grind out the third set as they again found themselves in an early hole down 14-8. But they clawed back due to an unlikely yet timely performance behind the service line.

“Two momentum shifts in the third set: when Jada White and Madison Touhey served for us. They really changed the momentum of the match for us,” Green said. “I was proud of them because it was tough. Touhey hadn’t been in a match yet, came in and served three aces. And Jada hadn’t served all year and she stepped up.”

White’s ace put the Warriors up 21-19 and Bearden had another great performance late with two kills and a block to finish the set, while Southern added another four kills in the period.

Up 2-1, the Warriors seized the opportunity to end the match and led nearly the entire way as their team depth became a serious factor.

Briana Wilson had a set to remember with an eye-popping five aces and three kills with the last one giving the Warriors their first area win of the year.

“We depend on her for so much. She’s certainly gotten more comfortable taking that leading role on the floor,” Green said. “She has good control of her game and you just don’t see her make a ton of errors. She kept us calm and she got stronger servicing as the match went on.”

Thompson will stay put and host Chelsea next on Tuesday, September 1. Oak Mountain will remain on the road and head to Hewitt-Trussville for a tri-match Thursday, August 27 with the Huskies and Shades Valley.