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Come on and slam: Thompson boosts Braves attack

Freshman Hannah Thompson focuses on her serve on Saturday at the Renaissance Coliseum. Photo by Kayla Johnson.

It’s been a common occurrence to hear the “Space Jam” theme boom through the Renaissance Coliseum speakers this fall. And no, it’s not from women’s basketball practice.

It’s actually freshman volleyball player Hannah Thompson’s serving song, and she has played a crucial role in the best 12 match start in team history.

“I hoped to contribute in some way, but I didn’t think I’d be in this big of a role,” Thompson said.

The outside hitter has averaged 11 kills and has a .202 hitting percentage in the team’s 10-2 start to the 2018 campaign. Her efforts have garnered her plenty of early season hardware, as she was named to the all-tournament team in the CEFCU invitational and Eagle Challenge, in addition to earning MVC Freshman of the week on Sept. 4.

“It just speaks to the caliber of the kids we’re recruiting and bringing to the program,” head coach Carol Price-Torok said. “Obviously we want them to be able to fill the shoes of the seniors that we have graduating, so to see [freshmen] come in and do that right away, and consistently as [Thompson] has is pretty great for us.”

Thompson has local ties to Peoria, as she was born and raised in Pekin. However, she never saw herself attending Bradley until later in the recruiting process.

“When I first started the [recruiting process], I did not want to go to Bradley, because it was too close to home,” Thompson said, “But once I started talking with coaches and getting on campus, and after seeing a bunch of other places, I was like ‘this is where I want to go.’”

Volleyball is in Thompson’s blood. Her mother played Division I volleyball for SIU Edwardsville and was also her high school coach at Pekin High School.

“She taught me the game. I’ve grown up in the gym with her. My volleyball IQ comes from her,” Thompson said on her mother’s influence.

Thompson is on the short side for an outside hitter, listed at 5 feet 8 inches. In comparison, all the other outside hitters on the Braves’ roster are 5 feet 11 inches or taller. However, she prides herself on her volleyball instincts, which she says makes up for her size.

“[I make up for it] with my volleyball IQ, my defense and my reading abilities. From a hitting standpoint I see the block really well, and the defenders, and so I move the ball around maybe better than some bigger hitters,” Thompson said.

Her ability on defense is evident, as she’s averaged over 14 digs a game including a 29- di­g performance against Western Illinois on Aug. 31.

Thompson is in great company at the outside hitter position, playing alongside senior Erica Haslag, who has had one of the more accomplished careers in recent team history.

“[Erica] has a lot of great shots, and she pushes me to develop those shots, so I like watching her hit. Seeing the way she plays helps a lot,” Thompson said.

The addition of Thompson has immensely impacted an already talented team that could provide a tough challenge for MVC opponents. With her career just starting, Bradley volleyball fans will have to start getting used to “Space Jam.”

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