Former UW volleyball players Thompson and Morrison bump, set and spike for Olympics

May 2, 2008

By Sheena Nguyen
The Daily

Towering above many others in their sport, both figuratively and literally, two former Washington volleyball players, Christal Morrison and Courtney Thompson, are setting and spiking balls hard everyday in hopes of reaching the summer Olympics.

Their journeys started nearly a decade ago when volleyball was a completely foreign concept.

'I played pretty much every other sport growing up and I didn't know anything about volleyball,' Thompson said.

The 5-foot-8-inch setter was introduced to the sport by a friend when she was only 12 years old, but fell in love with the sport right then and there.

Likewise, Morrison had early ties to the sport starting in eighth grade, but also crossed paths with a soon-to-be Husky teammate early on.

'It was actually Stevie Mussie, who went to the same junior high as me, who convinced me to play,' Morrison said.

Since their start, both have transformed into well-accomplished players, having already reached many milestones in their careers.

Thompson's name can be found in various record books, from being the sixth Husky ever to have 1,000 digs to marking more than 6,000 career assists during her time at Washington.

At the same time, Morrison made her mark in kills and points.

In whatever manner that they go down in the books, though, both players agree that Washington has been the pinnacle of their careers thus far.

'UW has been everything to shaping my career,' Thompson said. 'Coming in to UW, I knew how to work hard and knew people pretty well. I knew how to lead a team but I didn't know much about volleyball, so I got really lucky with Jim and our coaching staff because they're great teachers of the game,' she said.

Not only has the collegiate athletic experience at Washington fine-tuned their game, it has also helped the two shape up for the next level in their sport, which they both plan to pursue.

'With the coaching staff and the girls that I've been able to play with, I just really feel lucky to have that experience which makes me prepared the best way possible for the next level,' Morrison said.

Though both have already graduated from Washington, neither Morrison nor Thompson have hesitated on taking that next step to professional sports.

Their most recent venture was to Puerto Rico where Morrison and Thompson played against each other competitively for the first time since donning purple and gold.

'It was my first professional experience, so I certainly learned a lot,' Thompson said. 'It's a lot different when it's your job to perform. It didn't really change how I approached it, I still had just as much fun playing, but ... it's a lot different when your only job in life basically is to be good at volleyball.'

Even though getting paid to play a sport isn't something either of the girls are complaining about, the training and preparation for it definitely has a price.

'I work out a lot, I watch a lot of film and just study the game a lot,' Thompson said. 'I think that people who don't play, they look at my life and think, `Wow, I wouldn't want to do that.''

Her passion for the sport is what has kept her going.

'If you look at my daily routine I don't think that many people would think that it's awesome, but if it's something that you love then it's great,' Thompson said.

That kind of pure love of the sport has been evident to those around her, including Husky volleyball player, sophomore Becky Perry.

'Courtney was incredible,' Perry said. 'She is the type of teammate that leaves the program and you get to look back and say, `Wow I played with Courtney Thompson.' She was an amazing captain and always went out of her way to make sure everyone was doing well on the team. She is the greatest female athlete I have ever met hands down.'

With that kind of admiration already coming her way so early in her career, it's evident that achieving new marks in volleyball will be in Thompson's future.

Even Morrison, the more recent graduate, has plans of continuing on in the sport on the biggest stage there is -- the Olympics.

'It's looking like it's more in the cards for 2012 rather than 2008, but it's obviously a dream of mine to go and represent my country and play in the Olympic Games,' Morrison said.

For Thompson, years down the road after the Olympics, straying from the sport isn't even in her frame of mind.

'I want to stay in athletics,' she said. 'I think coaching would be great. I've had great experiences at UW. I've had so much fun, I want to create that much fun for other people.'

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