Thompson’s season ends with magical Final Four run

Published 8:52 pm Wednesday, October 28, 2020

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

BIRMINGHAM – Making the state tournament for the second year in a row as an Elite Eight team was special on its own for the Thompson Warriors, but to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2003 was a moment the 2020 Thompson volleyball team will never forget.

After coming to the Birmingham Crossplex in 2019 and losing McGill-Toolen in straight sets in the Elite Eight, the Warriors came back determined in 2020 to advance. And after taking down Prattville easily in straight sets this year in the Elite Eight, the Warriors took one more step in a continued process of growth.

The Warriors did go on to lose to No. 1 Hoover in straight sets in the Final Four, coming up one match short of the championship, but the history for this year’s team was set in stone.

At the end of the Hoover match, as the Warriors turned back to their teammates after waving to the opposing players, tears overcame them, but hugs and smiles also joined to comfort the pain.

Because as the Warriors walked off the court for the final time this season, they looked to the player next to them and saw a teammate that helped them make history—a moment they’ll never forget.

The Warriors entered the Final Four for the first time in 17 years having lost in their last three trips to the Elite Eight in 2019, 2013 and 2012. The last time they made it to the Final Four, they were a 5A team and advanced to the state championship where they lost in straight sets to Huntsville.

Taking on the Buccaneers, who have been No. 1 in the Class 7A standings the entire year with a remarkable record of 48-1, the Warriors had their work cut out for them.

But throughout the match, even with a deficit for much of the night, you could see the determination to fight for every point. The Warriors were getting angry at themselves after bad points, diving all over the place for the ball, listening to coaches and celebrating each successful moment.

And their fight showed the entire way.

In the opening set, the Warriors fell behind 3-0 and 6-3 early, but answered with a 6-3 run of their own to even the set at 9-9.

Hoover pulled away again to take a four-point lead at 17-13 and 20-16. But Thompson clawed back to eventually tie the set at 21-21 thanks to a 5-1 run.

But from there, the Bucs had seen enough and ended the set with a 4-0 run to take a 1-0 lead.

But the Warriors were right there at times and felt like they could compete and win a set with a few more good bounces.

But those bounces didn’t come in the second set. Hoover jumped out to an 8-3 lead thanks to two different 4-0 runs, and eventually extended the lead to 16-8 with another 5-0 run.

The Bucs gathered a 10-point lead at 22-12 and never looked back en route to a 25-18 set win and 2-0 match lead.

Hoover continued its strong play in the third set, leading by five points early in the frame, but Thompson clawed back once again to eventually even the set at 16-16 behind an 8-3 run.

The Bucs responded with a 6-1 run, but Thompson fought back one more time to cut the deficit to 22-20 late, showing there was no quit.

But the Warriors were climbing a mountain with no summit, as they just never could catch Hoover, who pulled away for a 25-21 set victory to complete the 3-0 sweep.

Thompson will lose key seniors Kelsey Tangle, Brynleigh Glover, Sophie Bearden and Farrah Madden, but everyone else will return. Those four seniors left their mark on the program by making history and proving what is possible while wearing the Thompson uniform, and the strong group of returning players will look to build off of their leadership and take the program one step further next year.