Since her late intro to volleyball, about the only thing that has slowed Ozark senior middle hitter Ashya Thompson’s progress was a sprained ankle her junior season.
It’s a year ago this week she injured her ankle upon landing on a ball and subsequently was out for three weeks.
Thompson enters that dubious anniversary with momentum on her side. She had 10 kills in Ozark’s 25-8, 25-18, 25-18 triumph versus Joplin on Thursday.
Looking back on her injury, it was a freakish accident. As Thompson celebrated a Lady Tigers point against Springfield Catholic, a Lady Irish player rolled the ball back to the Ozark side of the court. Unaware, Thompson rolled her ankle upon landing on the ball.
“I collapsed and couldn't put any body weight on (the ankle),” Thompson said. “I couldn't believe what just happened.”
Ozark hosts Catholic on Wednesday.
“I’ll definitely get some vengeance for that (match),” Thompson said, perhaps only half-jokingly.
Thompson actually has made it a point to practice and play with an exceptional passion every day and night since her get-go. She was in catch-up mode for quite a while, after not beginning to play volleyball until she was in the eighth grade.
“The last day of school (of seventh-grade year), my friends said I should come to the volleyball tryout for eighth grade,” Thompson said. “(The coach) told me I was going to be a manager. Here I am now. I fell in love with volleyball very quickly. I didn't know I would love it so much. I've never stopped.”
Once Thompson entered high school, Ozark coach Adeana Brewer has been nothing but impressed with her.
“For this level of volleyball, (her late start) is unheard of. A lot of girls that come into this program and the elite programs in the conference have been playing since the fifth or sixth grade,” Brewer said. “For her to be where she is says a lot about her coach-ability, determination and overall athletic ability. She has learned so much during her journey.
“I immediately saw Ashya was a kid who was willing to work really hard, was open to feedback and would take that knowledge out on the floor,” she added. “When you have someone like that, you give them opportunities.”
Brewer considers Thompson an ideal example to the rest of the Lady Tigers.
"She is our leader for how hard she works in everything she does. It's easy for her to ask other people to work hard because she is doing it as a leader,” Brewer said. “She holds people accountable.”
Ozark (19-2 overall and 5-0 in the COC) naturally had a bit of a letdown against Joplin (4-13-1 and 0-5), after sweeping Nixa a couple nights earlier.
“We maybe let (Joplin) in the game more than we would have liked to,” Brewer said. “But we played confidently. We never wavered in our (belief) we were going to win.
“Ideally, I'd like to see us compete at the same level every match we play,” she added. “I think every coach would say that.”
In addition to Thompson’s 10 kills, Ozark received 35 assists from Reece Cook, 18 kills from Reagan Baade, 12 digs from Macy Humble, 11 kills from Skylar Hilton and nine kills from Tara Venable.