Thompson hosts Samford and Jacksonville State in college volleyball exhibition

Published 5:33 pm Thursday, April 4, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

ALABASTER – The Samford Bulldogs and Jacksonville State Gamecocks went back to school on Wednesday, April 3 as they took the court at Thompson High School’s Warrior Arena for a preseason volleyball exhibition.

“I thought the event was really good,” Thompson varsity volleyball head coach Judy Green said. “I thought that the level of volleyball was very competitive and very entertaining.”

The four-set game, which Samford won 4-0, was part of a trend in college volleyball to travel to local high schools for exhibition matches and to capitalize on volleyball’s recent surge of growth headlined by Nebraska’s record-breaking match with Omaha at the Cornhuskers’ football stadium.

It was also a continuation of Green’s goal to bring high-level volleyball to Alabaster to grow the game and help her players prepare for the collegiate level.

“I just think everybody now kind of has the bug and the interest to watch women’s volleyball,” Green said. “I think for us, it’s always an opportunity to showcase our sport at the next level. We have players that have the desire to play at the next level and I think it’s really good for them to see the level of competition and almost even just the physicality of the game at that level.”

In addition to the fact that both teams were from Alabama, the game had plenty more local ties as well.

The game was a return to Shelby County for former Oak Mountain setter Kathryn Smith who currently plays for Jacksonville State.

The Gamecocks will soon have another local star take the court for them this fall as Thompson outside hitter Chloe Mittelstadt will play for Jacksonville State after graduating next month and got to see her future college team compete on her high school home floor.

Green is also longtime friends with Samford head coach Keylor Chan, which lay the groundwork for the Bulldogs to schedule the match at Thompson as part of their shared goal to grow volleyball in Alabama.

“In our state, we’re all trying to just keep volleyball moving forward and growing the sport,” Green said. “And we’re lucky Chloe Mittlestadt is going to go play for Jacksonville State next year. So it was very cool that her future team came here to compete. And I have a really long-standing relationship and friendship with Keylor Chan, the coach at Samford, and he’s always been very good about wanting to do some out-of-the-box things.”

While Tuesday night’s weather forced volleyball clubs to reschedule practice to Wednesday, which Green believes may have impacted attendance, Thompson Middle School and High School volleyball players watched the game alongside the traveling Samford and Jacksonville State fans.

Green believed her players got a lot out of the match and hopes they can apply what they saw the Bulldogs and Gamecocks did into their own skillsets.

“They were very attentive,” Green said. “I didn’t see them on their phones or anything. They were truly watching the game, and hopefully they were watching the women who play the position that they play and they can see the skill level that they have and how they read the game and just how they compete.”

Green hopes to continue Thompson’s recent tradition of hosting college games in the future as long as the interest is there.

“We’ll keep doing it as long as the college programs are interested in doing it and we’ll try to continue to spread the wealth a little bit and bring some new faces in,” Green said.