When Courtney Thompson decided to stay home and play volleyball for the University of Washington, she probably couldn’t have known that by the time she was finished, she would be considered among the greatest female athletes in school history.
So great, in fact, that her No. 3 jersey will be retired during Washington’s match against Colorado on Sunday.
And if you think that’s the stuff of dreams, well, it’s not.
Because, as Thompson said, “It’s way past any dream I ever had. It’s a huge honor, and I’m very thankful.”
The setter also is plenty deserving. Thompson, a two-time News Tribune All-Area player of the year at Kentlake High School (2001-02), was the cornerstone of UW’s national championship season in 2005, when she also won the Honda Sports Award as the nation’s top volleyball player.
Thompson holds the NCAA record for assists per game, along with the Pac-12 Conference record for career assists.
She was also a three-time, first-team All-American and a member of the U.S. national team that won the silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
All achievements to cherish. But Sunday’s jersey retirement might be the biggest honor yet.
“I can’t think of anything cooler than to have something that’s so important to you recognize you in that way,” Thompson said. “The University of Washington means so much to me. It’s where I’m from, and I grew up there. It’s a huge part of my life. To be a part of that forever is just really, really cool.”
Thompson joins softball pitcher Danielle Locke (formerly Lawrie) as the first two women to have their jerseys retired by UW. Thompson’s will be the third retired number in Hec Edmundson Pavilion, where it will join the jerseys of former UW men’s basketball players Bob Houbregs (No. 25) and Brandon Roy (No. 3).
She was back in town Saturday ahead of the ceremony, staying at her parents’ house in Kent. Thompson lives in California near the USA Volleyball team’s training facility in Anaheim.
She’s currently arranging her next overseas venture, which will most likely be in Switzerland. In addition to Switzerland, she also has played in Puerto Rico, Austria and Poland.
Jim McLaughlin, UW’s coach since 2001, said the school’s recognition of Thompson is representative of a larger respect for the sport.
“It shows a commitment to volleyball at UW that they would hang her jersey up there,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a big deal for the sport. It’s hard to put into words what she means to my family, to the program, to USA Volleyball.”
In her younger, high school years, Thompson said she thought “the cool thing to do” was to move far away from home to attend college, so she entertained offers from schools such as Notre Dame.
Then McLaughlin entered the picture, and Thompson’s club coach and mentor, Dawn Colston, told her she should pay close attention to McLaughlin’s unique approach to coaching.
“The more I was around him and the more I got to know him, once I figured that out and knew the kind of person he was,” Thompson said, “then it became a very, very easy decision.”firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @ChristianCaple