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Thompson sets women’s volleyball to new heights

Nick Reddy

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Torey Thompson is on pace to break the record for most assists. The record is currently held by her coach, Sable Villaescusa. Photo credit: John Domogma

There is a general consensus among sports fans that within sports teams, some positions are more valuable than others— especially on the offensive side.

However, often times overlooked among the list of most vital roles in team athletics is the setter in volleyball. Tasked with trying to make every second contact for their team as perfect as can be, volleyball setters hold the key to their squad’s offensive vehicle. The difference between a slick setter and a sloppy one is as apparent as the difference between a Maserati GranTurismo and a Ford Escort.

Luckily for the Chico State women’s volleyball team, they have one of the best offensive weapons in the business with junior setter Torey Thompson.

The Newport Beach native has been the Wildcats’ starting setter since she arrived on campus back in 2013. Twice named to the All-California Collegiate Athletic Association First Team as well as two-time recipient of Second Team All-West Region recognition, the 2014 CCAA Setter of the Year has the ‘Cats in the thick of the playoff push.

Thompson’s favorite set is the slide, which caters perfectly to the ‘Cats’ quick middle hitters and their setter’s ready hands. But aside from the team’s go-to play call, Thompson simply does her best to put her hitters in position to put the ball away.

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Torey Thompson strives to set the ball over the net. Photo credit: John Domogma

“When I give my hitters a set in serve, it is according to game plan and in transition,” Thompson said. “The middles usually run the offense and I listen to them unless we have a play that exposes the other team really well.”

“[Thompson] is definitely one of our best leaders on and off the court,” said Sable Villaescusa, first-year assistant coach and former Wildcat setter. “She knows what we want to do in our program and in the setter spot, that’s really key. She understands what we want to run and why we want to run it.”

Such success doesn’t come without putting in the time, especially in dissecting film on opponents. Thompson credits her coaching staff for helping her and her teammates mentally prepare for matches.

“Our coaches do a great job in game plan by showing us their offensive tendencies, giving us the proper moves on defense to make and the best way to expose them in our offense, all in video and written down on paper,” Thompson said. “We spend over an hour in film watching our opponents the day before the match and then carry it over in the practice before to prepare.”

Villaescusa described how Thompson not only needs to watch video of opposing hitters’ tendencies in order to contribute defensively, but also how her own teammates need to ideally set the ball. It is worth noting that Thompson is second on the team in digs behind the only libero and defensive specialist Shannon Cotton.

“One of our mottos for this season is being relentless on defense and she exuberates that,” said David Irving, second-year assistant coach, who keeps track of stats for the ‘Cats during matches.

After Thompson’s sophomore campaign concluded last fall, she had tallied exactly two more assists than Villaescusa did in her two underclassman seasons. Through 17 matches in 2015, Thompson has 632 assists in the CCAA and is theoretically on pace to pass her coach’s historic mark in the record books. Villaescusa is the program’s all-time leader in assists with 4,575.

“Sable has been a huge help this season and a great coach,” Thompson said. “Her being a setter is really nice to get her perspective.”

School record banter aside, the ‘Cats’ floor captain has got her group gunning for the playoffs. As long as Thompson’s hands are on the wheel, these ‘Cats are going places.

Better warm up the Maserati.

Nick Reddy can be reached at [email protected] or @NickIsReddy on Twitter.

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Thompson sets women’s volleyball to new heights