Morrison and Thompson Living Out A Dream
April 24, 2008
SEATTLE - For former Washington volleyball players Christal Morrison and Courtney Thompson, the chance to play professional volleyball has been a once in a lifetime opportunity. Both players have fulfilled long-standing dreams by playing in the Liga de Voleibol Superior Femenino (Women's Superior Volleyball League) in Puerto Rico for the past few months.
Morrison has recently returned to Seattle after her team, the Bayamón Cowgirls, was eliminated from the playoffs, while Thompson's adventure continues on as her team, the Carolina Giants, is playing in the semi-finals.
Thompson and her teammates have lost the first three games in a best-of-seven series against regular-season champion Caguas, but Thompson knows her team, which finished third in the regular-season standings, can come back. Even if her team does get eliminated soon, it has been an experience of a lifetime for the former Husky.
'It's been such a great experience down here,' said Thompson, who was a three-time first team American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America (AVCA) selection as a setter at the UW. 'The time down here has been full of new experiences and has challenged me in different ways. I've enjoyed every minute of it.'
Thompson's time in Puerto Rico has been enhanced by the fact that she gets to share it with her best friend, who happens to be Morrison.
'It's been awesome being here with her,' said Thompson. 'Having all of these new experiences and challenges and having your best friend only four minutes away, it's been great. It's nice to have someone here that understands where you're coming from.'
Thompson has spent the past few months living in Laguna Gardens with three of her teammates, while Morrison was just down the down the road in Isla Verde with teammate Erica Lott, who played at BYU the past four seasons.
The two faced each other five times, three during the regular season and twice in the playoffs, with Thompson's team coming out on top four times. Both were also chosen for the LVSF All-Star Match, which pits Las Nativas (the best Puerto Rican players) against Las Importadas (the best foreign players).
'It was fun going against her but it was still a competition at the same time,' said Morrison. 'Seeing her on the other side of the net took me back to the high school days when I was at Puyallup (High School) and she was at Kentlake (High School).
'I tell you, though, I'd much rather have her on my side of the net,' Morrison said with a laugh.
Each of the 10 teams in the LVSF are allowed to carry two foreign players on their roster, so landing a roster spot can be tough. But both players left Washington with impressive resumes after award-filled careers, and the stellar play they exhibited as Huskies has carried over to their professional careers.
Both players shined for the respective teams throughout the season. Thompson, who set the NCAA career record for assists per game, led the LVSF in assists and assists per game, while Morrison, who is the UW's only four-time AVCA All-American, ranked third in kills and points, and fourth in kills per game and points per game.
Morrison said that while the competition is good in Puerto Rico, there are some major differences between the professional league and collegiate volleyball.
'There are some good players down here. But you have a much broader spectrum of players. You have a lot of girls that aren't as mature in their game, but then you have a 32-year old who is the smartest player on the court and knows how to play.
'It is hard to compare it to college competition because it's such a different game in Puerto Rico. NCAA schools have a lot more structure in their systems and just in general regarding their teams and how they do things. Down in Puerto Rico they don't really have systems or structure. It's more `just go play and do your thing,' and the players happen to be good so it happens to be good volleyball.'
Morrison and Thompson both agree that their four years at Washington, and especially playing for head coach Jim McLaughlin and his staff, prepared them for their time in Puerto Rico.
'Having my four years at Washington and having Jim and (assistant coaches) Keno (Gandara) and Leslie (Tuiasosopo) prepare me for the next level is the best thing that could have every happened to me,' said Morrison. 'It really prepared me for the next level.'
Thompson and Morrison are unsure if they will return to Puerto Rico next season. Thompson may pursue other overseas opportunities in China, Europe or Russia, while Morrison has three classes left to finish her degree in sociology, which she plans on doing by next fall.
'I think when you're younger and you first realize that you can get paid to play volleyball it's like `yeah, I want to go overseas and do that,'' said Thompson. 'First playing at Washington and now playing in Puerto Rico professionally, it's kind of surreal.'