|Courtney Thompson (3) celebrates with her Rexona-Ades teammates|
In the decade since she first turned pro, Courtney Thompson has earned more medals and trophies than she literally knows what to do with. With so much success playing with teams in Eastern Europe, Western Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America, she once intentionally left an oversized award behind to lighten her load on her busy international schedule.
Even so, each accolade offers further evidence that Thompson is the best female athlete the University of Washington has ever produced. Her latest gold medal hung around her neck over the weekend, as Thompson and her Rexona-Ades (Rio de Janeiro) teammates won the Brazil Cup, defeating fellow Superliga powerhouse Beach 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-18).
Everywhere she goes, Thompson brings success. She's proved herself in Switzerland, Puerto Rico and Poland, and continues to make a mark in Brazil, easily the most volleyball-mad nation on earth. In the pressure cooker of the city hosting this year's Olympics, and playing for Brazil's legendary Bernardinho, Thompson has led her team to the top of Brazil's premiere pro league standings.
|Most Brazilian star athletes go by just one name. What's on the back of Courtney Thompson's jersey? (see below)|
Just as foreign nationals are big stars in American leagues like the NBA, WNBA, MLB, MLS and NHL, Thompson is among those American stars whose name is better known around the world than at home. She's overcome unimaginable challenges—relentless competition, globe-trotting tournaments, aching homesickness—to become one of the world's elite in a sport played by more American girls than any other (yes, more than soccer, more than basketball.)
How does she do it? Ask almost anyone whose been Courtney's teammate, all the way back to Kent, WA youth sports in the 1980s. They'll tell you she is about the best teammate they've ever had. Passion. Energy. Competitive fire. Empathy. Fun.
Courtney will be among three setters competing for two spots on the USA Olympic roster this summer. She already knows how to win medals in Rio.
OTHER FORMER HUSKIES PLAYING PRO
Thompson is one of four former Huskies on the current US National Team roster. Krista Vansant is playing professionally this winter with Thompson's old team, Volero Zurich, (where her fellow National Team members Foluke Akinradewo and Natalie Hagglund are also on the roster.) Team USA's Jenna Hagglund is with Busto Arsizio in Northern Italy, paired with National Team opposite Karsta Lowe. Olympian Tama Miyashiro is not currently playing professionally as she rehabilitates an injury suffered with the US Team last summer.
In Berlin, Germany, Kaleigh Nelson and Lauren Barfield are playing for Kopenicker SC, while Becky Perry is with MKS Dabrowa Gornicza in Poland.
So far this season, 253 American women (and 99 American men) have completed the paperwork to play professionally overseas. How many sportswriters pay attention to how many Americans make money playing volleyball?
SANDERS COACHING AT COLORADO
Evan Sanders was a sophomore and the starting setter when her Colorado State team upset heavily-favored Washington in the second round of the 2009 NCAA tournament.
In 2011, Sanders transferred to UW, splitting her senior season setting duties with Jenni Nogueras in the Huskies' 6-2 offense. She played professionally in France and Greece before becoming a volunteer assistant last season for NCAA finalist Texas.
Last December, Colorado volleyball coach Liz Kritza was abruptly fired, quickly replaced by Denver University's
Colorado State's Jesse Mahoney. Mahoney had been an associate head coach at CSU during Sanders' three years with the Rams; she left Colorado State when Mahoney became head coach at Denver U.
Last week, Mahoney hired Sanders as one of his two assistant coaches. She joins a growing roster of former UW players now working as collegiate assistant coaches, including Stevie Mussie (Penn State), Sanja Tomasevic (Miami), Danka Danicic (UTSA) and Brie Hagerty Brenner (Defiance, OH College.)