Courtney Thompson knows how to win.
In 2005, she led the University of Washington volleyball team to its first national championship. The following season, she was named the outstanding volleyball collegian in America. Last year, playing professionally, she was the starting setter for Switzerland’s champion.
|MVP Courtney Thompson celebrates Catano's 4-0 series sweep to win the Puerto Rican professional championship. Fans placed a wrestling-style belt around her shoulders, decorated with the Lancheras' mascot, a ferry boat.|
Last night, Thompson added another crown, leading her team to the Puerto Rican professional championship. Thompson, a Kentlake High graduate, was named the MVP of the finals.
In some ways, last night’s victory may have been the most unlikely. The opponent was mighty Caguas, the New York Yankees of the Puerto Rico professional league. The Creoles have been to the finals twenty times; they had not lost consecutive matches in three seasons. Their setter is well-regarded Michelle Nogueras, older sister of University of Washington setter Jenni Nogueras.
Thompson’s team, the Cataño Lancheras, were Sad Sacks by comparison. The team had a long history of losing, and entered the best-of-seven final series as definitive underdogs.
But Thompson transformed the Lancheras, whose nickname refers to the ferry boats which connect Cataño with San Juan. In a profile titled “Worshiped in Cataño,” the Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevodia said “Thompson won over fans with charisma on the court,” and with her leadership and intensity.
“Mothers wrote letters to the team,” says University of Washington assistant coach Keno Gandara, “praising Courtney as a role model for their daughters. And Courtney wrote personal letters back. They love her there.”
The Lancheras shocked Caguas by winning the first three matches of the best-of-seven Finals. The championships were moved to a larger arena to accommodate the swelling crowds.
Last night, Caguas, leading two sets to one, took the lead in the fourth set. Thompson and her teammates--including former California All-American Angie Forsett--fought back, winning both the fourth and fifth sets, earning a four-match sweep and the title. It was Cataño’s first championship.
For the past four years, Thompson has been a member of the US National Team. She’ll now return home for the biggest battle of her volleyball life: trying to make the cut for team that will represent the USA at this summer’s London Olympics.
If USA head coach Hugh McCutcheon is looking for a setter who knows something about winning …