Thursday, December 19, 2013

NCAA | Washington vs Penn State played memorable match the last time out

“Courtney Thompson just kicked our butts,” remembers a former Penn State star
  • #12 Wisconsin vs. #1 Texas | December 19 | 4:30 PM (Pacific) |Key Arena, Seattle
  • #2 Penn State vs. #3 Washington | December 19 | 6:30 PM (Pacific) |Key Arena, Seattle

Today, they are the closest of friends. But on December 9, 2006, five current members of the US National Team were on opposite sides of the net during one of the most memorable volleyball matches in Seattle history.

Courtney Thompson, Alicia Deesing (2) and Tama Miyashiro
defend an attack by Megan Hodge (11) in the 2006 Regional Final
-Seattle Times photo
Washington, seeded #3 (as it is in 2013) hosted #5 Penn State in the Regional Finals at Hec Ed Pavilion. The Huskies featured future Olympians Courtney Thompson, Tama Miyashiro and Janine Sandell, plus stars like Christal Morrison, Stevie Mussie, Alesha Deesing, Jessica Swarbrick and Ashley Aratani.

The Nittany Lions were led by current US National Team members Nicole Fawcett and Alisha Glass, plus future Olympians Megan Hodge and Christa Harmotto. Both coaches—Washington’s Jim McLaughlin and Penn State’s Russ Rose—had won national titles.

“It was really loud,” remembers Rose, whose 2013 team will face McLaughlin’s 2013 in tonight’s national semifinals. “I think they were yelling at me for wearing a vest,” he joked.

Penn State outblocked Washington 15.5 to 11.5, including 3 solo blocks by Fawcett. But the Huskies had the better hitting percentage (.284-.247) and out-served the Lions throughout (6 aces/6 errors vs. 4 aces/12 errors). UW’s Stevie Mussie had 20 kills and 13 digs, one of her best games wearing purple and gold.

“Washington was great,” says Rose. “I remember Courtney (Thompson) waving her finger at the referee and the referee allowing that behavior and the crowd going nuts.”

In the end, Washington prevailed 3-1 (30-27, 30-24, 28-30, 30-26). Thompson had 60 assists, 7 digs, 3 block assists 2 kills and an ace. Afterwards, she led her team on a raucous conga line around Hec Ed, slapping high fives with delirious fans among a crowd of 6,549.

“After the match,” remembers Harmotto, “Coach Rose told us, ‘Courtney Thompson just kicked our butts.’”

Washington, the 2005 National Champions, went to the Final Four in Omaha, losing a tough semifinal showdown to rival Stanford, which went on to lose to host Nebraska. Stanford’s roster included future National Team members Cynthia Barboza and Kristin Richards, plus future Olympian Foluke Akinradewo. Nebraska; Nebraska’s included future Olympian Jordan Larson.

Thompson won the Honda Award as the nation’s best volleyball player, and went on to play in the London Olympics with Miyashiro, Harmotto, Hodge, Akinradewo and Larson. (Sandell played at the same Olympics for Great Britain.)

After its Seattle defeat, Penn State didn’t lose another postseason match for more than four years.

“We had a good run after that,” Rose smiled.

  • Thompson is playing professionally this winter with the elite club Voléro Zürich. After helping her team win a big Champions League match in Russia Tuesday night, Thompson commuted for 24 hours to be in Seattle this week to cheer on Washington. She’ll be part of several functions at the annual convention of the American Volleyball Coaches Association at the Washington State Convention Center.
  • Thompson is also the star of a documentary that Seattle Times sports columnist Larry Stone described this morning as “riveting.” Court & Spark, a one-hour nonfiction journey through a world of volleyball you’ve never before seen, premieres this week during the Final Four festivities. The documentary is produced by Volleyblog Seattle’s Leslie & Jack Hamann and all proceeds from the sale of Court & Spark DVDs go to the nonprofit Puget Sound Region of USA Volleyball. Order your copy today at

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