‘Mission continues’: Thompson sweeps area tournament to claim championship

Published 10:43 pm Thursday, October 19, 2023

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

ALABASTER – A year after the Thompson Warriors went home heartbroken in the first round of the area tournament, they stood on their home court with a shot at redemption.

Hosting the 2023 Class 7A, Area 6 tournament, the Warriors not only redeemed last year’s early exit, but they swept through the tournament with straight-set victories against Tuscaloosa County and Hoover to claim the area championship and punch a ticket to the regional round of the playoffs.

“It says a lot about the leadership of our team,” head coach Judy Green said of her team’s focus since last season ended. “We started working, really, at the end of last season, putting some things in place. We really dug in in January. What you saw tonight is the work of January, March, April. That’s it. That’s where we became a united team and we’ve just gotten stronger as the season has gone along.”

Thompson opened the area tournament with a 3-0 sweep of Tuscaloosa County with set wins of 25-9, 25-11 and 25-11 to earn a spot in the championship match against Hoover, who picked up a 3-1 victory against Vestavia Hills.

In a rematch of a 3-2 thriller from the regular season, this time, the Warriors were fueled by their motivation to redeem last year’s first-round loss and put together a dominant effort with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-17, 25-18) win.

“It means everything to our team,” Green said. “We’ve had a goal all year long, and every time we compete, it’s just one step in the mission. The mission has a destination, but this team has been so good about staying in the moment and staying present where they are. We knew we were going to have to fight tonight, but our preparation this week was outstanding. Their focus, their determination and just how they play the game together is a thing of beauty.”

Their focus was on display early in the match against Hoover.

Thompson fell behind 2-0 early in the opening set of the championship match, but the Warriors had several runs on tap throughout the night that made the difference in each set.

In the first set, Thompson trailed at 5-4, but the Warriors had a 3-0 run and 4-0 run shortly after to take an 11-6 advantage. The second of those runs completely swung the moment, as Thompson used it to put together a 13-3 stretch that put the team in front 20-9.

Hoover fought back to within five points, but Thompson closed out the 25-18 victory shortly after.

Thompson used that confidence to put together a strong start to the second set, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and then eventually using a 10-0 run to make it 16-7. From there, the Warriors held a comfortable lead throughout before eventually closing out a 25-17 win to gain a 2-0 match advantage.

Hoover, however, didn’t go down quietly. The Bucs battled in the third set, fighting to a 17-17 tie.

But, just like the previous two sets, Thompson had a run that made the difference. The Warriors won the next three points, which gave them all of the momentum needed to finish the set with an 8-1 run to pick up a 25-18 set victor and complete the 3-0 sweep.

“We talk about that we are not entitled to anything, we are not guaranteed anything or guaranteed the day that we are in,” Green said. “We want to stay together as long as we can. They really love each other. This week, I challenged them with, ‘How much do we love each other? How much respect are we going to have for our opponents?’ They rose to the occasion and I am so proud of them.”

For libero Abigail Campbell, she said the senior class has made it their goal to relish the moments like this.

“I think our senior class, our 2024 class, has been so adamant and strong willed that, we want to make it to state, we want to make it to the championship and we want to win. I feel like it is a passion in our heart,” she said. “We want to lead as a senior group so the next classes that come up will do the same.”

She said the team remains confident because of how close they are and that they are just getting better.

“I have always felt confident in this team,” Campbell said. “Even when we don’t have a good game, we’re still able to play together and figure out ways to win a game, even if we don’t play our best. Every time we play, we get a little bit better. We learn more about each other and progress as a team as a whole. We just won area, I’m so excited. I can’t wait to play our next opponent and hopefully get a ring on this finger. That’s all I have to say.”

Green compared the team to her 2005 team at the University of Alabama that made a special run to the SEC Championship match simply because of how much fun they had playing the game.

She said that has allowed the team to continue getting better with the players fully bought into the coaching staff as they now enter regionals with one game separating them from the state tournament.

“One of the things I feel like this team has done better than any other team I have coached at Thompson and that is that they have continued to allow us to grow them even until the end of the season,” she said. “This past week, we were still working on another layer of our offense. They’re not comfortable where they are, they want to be even better than that. It allowed us as coaches to mold them and to see how good we can be. I don’t know that we really know yet how good we can be.”