Judy Green’s scouting report of the Thompson High volleyball’s dynamic senior class stretches far away from the court.
As a group, Green, who is in her fourth season as the program’s head coach, describes them as “intelligent”, “community oriented” and a “solid group of kids.” Eventually, she gets the volleyball court – where each of the five seniors excel – but her point is they are much more than just great volleyball players.
Sit down for a chat with Mikayla Touhey, Madison Wright, Sierra Calhoun, Katharine Lillie and Diamond Gilliland and you see quickly that they each have their own distinct personality. You also see that – when it comes to being teammates – they share the same heartbeat.
“I really kind of look to them as my sisters and my encouragers,” Lillie said. “It’s been a rough road for each of us. We’ve all had our little conflicts, here and there. We’ve all had each other’s backs. On the court and off the court, we’re always encouraging one another. It’s a bond that is going to last after high school.”
Green, a former head volleyball coach at the University of Alabama, was in her first season as the program’s head coach when this senior class entered Thompson High.
“When she came to Thompson, I was really excited, just knowing she had coached at the next level,” Touhey said. “I thought, ‘We’re going to win state, one of my four years here.’”
The program, however, was not ready for that quest just yet.
“It was really a new program and it was very obvious, it had its flaws,” Lillie said. “We worked through them a lot. Each motto that we put in place each year, we used throughout the season. They’ve kind of stuck with me. Last year it was ‘Win the Day’, this year is ‘Row the Boat.’ It’s just a way to focus on that one thing when we’re with each other.”
Each of the seniors have followed their own path over the past four years. One thing they have in common is that each will play a critical role in their final season.
“They are the foundation of our team,” said Green, whose team is currently ranked No. 6 in Class 7A.
While the season is still young, it’s already been an amazing journey. The regular season began when the Warriors opened up Warrior Arena with a resounding victory over Calera before a near capacity crowd. The Warriors followed that special occassion by capturing the Oak Mountain Tournament and are one of only two teams to have a win over Class 7A No. 1 ranked Spanish Fort.
“It was fun winning the Oak Mountain Tournament,” Wright said. “It shows that we have so much potential. After our first loss, it was like, ‘OK, it’s time to go.’ It’s just been fun. After we won the last game, we could see what we really have in store for our season.”
Obviously, there is a lot of volleyball ahead for the Warriors – both young and old. However, it’s still flying by for the five players suiting up for their final season.
“It just amazes me that it’s already September,” said Calhoun. “We’re playing games and already had our first home game. It’s just gone by really, really fast.”
It’s certainly created a sense of urgency for the seniors.
“It’s weird because maybe there is club ball coming up,” Wright said. “But what if after the season ends, what if I don’t want to do club ball? This is really your last chance to play your heart out on the court.
Time will tell what the final chapter will look like. But this journey is more than just the final chapter.
“When we started, it was kind of rough,” Lillie said. “Knowing this program has grown so much, it shows a bright future for all the underclassmen and all the future teams that will go through. We hope to leave a really good impression on how to be a leader and how close everybody on your team is, not just your best friend. And to respect the freshmen, just like they should respect the seniors.”