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After injury, Thompson's Summer Hegg is back to lead the surging Tommies to the state volleyball tournament

The Tommies are the No. 3 seed in this weekend's state tournament in Bismarck.

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Thompson senior middle hitter Summer Hegg, center, celebrates with teammate Kiley Huebner after a point in the third set of Wednesday’s Class B Region 2 volleyball championship game, which the Tommies won 3-1 over May-Port CG at Park River Area School on November 9, 2022.
Photo courtesy Cory Erickson / Hillsboro Banner
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THOMPSON, N.D. — Thompson senior volleyball player Summer Hegg had experienced ankle injuries before. They usually lasted a week before she was good to get back to action.

This time, in the middle of her senior volleyball season, it was lingering into three weeks, and it wasn't feeling better.

"It was hard," Hegg said. "You start to wonder if the ankle will ever be back to full strength. But one day, we decided to test it again, and it never hurt again."

After missing four weeks, Hegg returned to the lineup and the Tommies surged down the stretch en route to a Region 2 title and a No. 3 seed in this weekend's North Dakota state Class B volleyball tournament.

The Tommies, 28-6-4 and winners of 10 straight, face Garrison at 3 p.m. Thursday in the state quarterfinals.

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The Tommies are in the tournament for the sixth year in a row.

For a team that graduated five seniors from last year's team, this Tommies group had to quickly learn new roles. And without Hegg for four weeks, Thompson had to adapt even more.

"Every player had to pick up their game and take on a new role," veteran Thompson coach Lisa Strand said. "We'd been trying to play a three-middle rotation but without (Hegg) there wasn't a third middle. Brenna Martin has really blossomed during that time. Clara Stevens, too. They had to say, okay, it's up to us. They took on that role.

"Then when Summer came back, everyone had gotten better because they had to step up. They had to learn how to best support the team. It was a big learning curve."

Martin leads the Tommies with 366 kills and 78 blocks, followed by Hegg with 328 kills and 65 blocks. Stevens adds 269 kills and 46 blocks.

Jordan West leads the defense with 561 digs, while Sydney Schwabe is the top setter with 614 assists.

"Our motto this season is 'stronger together,'" Strand said. "It couldn't be more on track. We picked it at the beginning of the season, and it has really been the mantra. Every player has done whatever they can to make the team successful."

Thompson's volleyball success isn't lost on the players. Strand was recognized earlier this year as likely the first coach in state history to reach 1,000 career wins.

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"After graduating five seniors, everyone was wondering if we were going to be the first in six years to lose ... it was weighing on us," Hegg said. "The seniors got together and told everyone we had to work hard and get to that next level."

Garrison is led by senior middle hitter Karli Klein, who has 393 kills. Freshman setter Cara Schlehr has 626 assists.

"Like always, our key is our passing," Strand said. "If we can pass well, our setter can have all of our hitters available and can distribute. If we can get the ball to our hitters in system with a good pass, I think our hitters can score points. But without that pass, if we struggle in serve receive and defense, that'll put us in scramble-mode, and we don't play well scrambling. We play best at pass, set, spike in an organized transition offense."

Thompson at a glance

Coach: Lisa Strand.

Record: 28-6-4.

State quarterfinal: No. 3 Thompson plays Garrison at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Bismarck Event Center.

Leaders: Jr. Brenna Martin 366 kills, 78 blocks; sr. Summer Hegg 328 kills, 65 blocks; sr. Clara Stevens 269 kills, 46 blocks; sr. Jordan West 561 digs, 60 aces; jr. Sydney Schwabe 614 assists, 200 digs; jr. Dru Schwab 314 digs, 38 aces; jr. Josie Plain 213 digs, 42 aces, 462 assists; jr. Reese Danner 147 kills, 138 digs, 26 aces.

State tournament history: This is Thompson's 18th state tournament appearance and sixth consecutive. The Tommies have five state championships, with the last title coming in 2018.

Related Topics: THOMPSON
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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