Thompson survives in five sets against Hoover to finish area play undefeated

Published 11:02 am Thursday, September 28, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

ALABASTER – The Thompson Warriors knew the stakes going into Thursday, Sept. 28’s home match against Hoover: win, and they would finish area play undefeated and host the area tournament for the first time in coach Judy Green’s career at Thompson, but if they lost, they would likely miss out on the top seed.

The Warriors didn’t have it easy, but they made a comeback from being down 2-1 to beat the Bucs, 3-2, to clinch the No. 1 seed in the area tournament.

“That’s the first time in my career at Thompson we’ve been the one seed, so it was special to do that,” Green said. “We knew we had to win. We couldn’t afford to lose at all, no matter what the scenario was, because we would have lost the tiebreaker, but the girls, they’re just tough, and they just played so well together at the end of the match.”

Hoover started the match strong on a 4-1 run, but Thompson would tie up the set on multiple occasions at 8-8 and 12-12 to respond to Hoover. The Bucs scored four straight points to give them the lead, but Chloe Mittelstadt tied up the match again at 19 with a kill.

Hoover would strike back with five straight points to pull away and seal the set with a 25-19 win.

The start of the second set was as even as any point in the match, as the teams traded eight consecutive points before the match was tied 8-8. Then, Thompson went on a 4-0 run that was capped by an Annie Shelby solo block to trigger a Hoover timeout.

The Bucs battled back from there to tie the match at 16, but Thompson pulled away again immediately after, which gave the Warriors a lead they would hold through the end of the set. Thompson took the second set, 25-20, after set point was decided by a battle at the net.

In the third set, Hoover jumped out to a 6-1 lead, and the Bucs would not relinquish the lead at any point in the set. Thompson briefly drew within two points of a tie at 20-18, but Hoover increased its lead to four shortly after.

The Bucs took set point after a Sydney Durban serve led to a block at the net to give Hoover a 25-20 win.

With the Warriors down 2-1 in the match, Thompson needed a response in the fourth set, especially after going down 4-0 to start the set. However, the Warriors got back within one point at 7-6, and Thompson finally tied up the set at 12-12 after a Hannah Drexel kill.

Hoover retook the lead, but the 15-14 mark would be the last time the Bucs would lead in the set. Another Drexel kill on that point kicked off a 12-1 run from Thompson anchored by a dominant run by Kenzly Foote on the service line and highlighted by an Olivia Kelly solo block to tie up the set.

Green said that run made the difference in the match as the Warriors adjusted during the set.

“I think we kind of started to figure out the tempo of their offense,” Green said. “We were blocking too late, we were jumping too late, their offense was pretty fast and we were just too slow to get our hands above the top of the net. And I think once we did, we kind of let our defense have a clearer shot at digging balls. And when we dig balls, that’s who we are. We are so good digging balls, and Kenzly Foote’s serving in the fourth set and our defense behind her serve was the difference maker.”

The Warriors ended the 10-point unbeaten run up 23-16, but they would win the final two points to take the set. A Bradli Davis ace on set point clinched the fourth set for Thompson with a 25-16 win.

In the fifth and final set, Thompson took an early advantage and held on to it thanks to a strong offensive performance, including multiple emphatic kills from Shelby.

The Warriors led 4-2 after a great kill from Shelby. They would later take advantage of Hoover miscues on the service line to go up 8-4 and force a timeout.

Shelby would force Hoover to call another timeout at 12-7 after landing a swing along the left sideline, and she earned another kill to put the Warriors on the serve for match point.

After the Bucs won a pair of points, they failed to block a Thompson swing, which gave the Warriors match point to win the fifth set, 15-11, and the match, 3-2.

With the win, Thompson wrapped up area play with a 3-0 record, which clinched the first regular season area championship in the Green era and guaranteed that the Warriors will host the area tournament on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Green was proud of the Warriors’ effort and the support that they had from their fans throughout the match.

“I’m so proud of our team,” Green said. “We had a very nontraditional week of practice leading into today. We’ve had so many kids that were under the weather. We’ve had an injury to a player that was out for two days, and we just kind of lost our offensive rhythm there. But man, did we stay in the fight, did we stay hungry, and when we finally got our offensive rhythm in the fourth set, I knew we were going to be alright.”

Thompson will have the rest of the week off ahead of an in-county matchup at Oak Mountain on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 6 p.m.