A love for the game of volleyball

New Washougal coach comes from a volleyball family

New Washougal High School volleyball coach Mallorie Thompson fires the Panthers up during open gym.

You can’t start a fire without a spark.

New Washougal High School volleyball coach Mallorie Thompson hopes her passion for the game can ignite the program after several losing seasons.

“I love that fire, intensity and excitement of the game,” she said. “You can’t find it in any other sport.”

Thompson grew up in a volleyball setting. The 28-year-old played the game for Estacada High School and Warner Pacific College, before earning a master’s in education from Concordia University.

There was also a pretty successful volleyball coach in the family. Lori Anderson-Cook, Thompson’s aunt, coached Gresham High School to three state championships.

“She has been a great role model for me,” Thompson said. “My aunt started tossing balls to me when I was 3 years old. I’ve had a volleyball in my hand ever since.”

Thompson believes that hard work and team unity produce results. The Washougal volleyball players are participating in open gym sessions this month. Unity camp, strength and conditioning exercises and tryouts await them in July. It’s going to be a busy summer for the Panthers.

“The kids are nervous. It’s a big change, but I think it will be good for them,” Thompson said. “I want to turn this program upside down, start from the bottom and shake it up. These girls deserve to be successful.”

So far, the changes have been positive.

“There’s a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. I can see and feel the excitement. These girls are ready to start the season,” Thompson said. “We are going to focus on fundamentals and team camaraderie. Building team unity is something I really believe in. With six people on the court at one time, you have to be able to rely on the person next to you.”

Thompson coached at Wilsonville High School, in Oregon, for five years before coming to Washougal. She is the co-director of the Power Force Volleyball Club, in Wilsonville. Thompson would love to see the club expand to Southwest Washington and to get a team started in Washougal.

“Uniting the younger age level with the high school girls gets everyone on the same page,” she said. “It would also get the younger girls fired up about the sport.”

In the meantime, she will continue to encourage the Panthers on every play. September is just around the corner. Thompson is determined to make sure Washougal is ready to play volleyball.

“We are going to give 100 percent every time we step on the court,” she said. “We are dedicated to the team and to each other, and we are going to strive for success, regardless of the outcome.”