PLANT CITY — You won’t see Durant High senior volleyball standout Lexi Thompson flashing too many smiles or expending much energy in a team chant after each point during matches.
To Thompson, there’s a time and a place for celebrating. Mostly, it’s only when her side is victorious. And this season, she’s had plenty of reasons to celebrate after matches.
Thompson, the 6-foot outside hitter who has verbally committed to the University of Mississippi, has led the Cougars to a 28-0 record. Durant hosts Steinbrenner at 7 tonight for a trip to Class 7A-Region 3 final. The next step is the state final four.
“We never thought we’d be undefeated,” Thompson said. “We always focused on November, but once we got to 10-0 we knew that an undefeated season was a reality.”
Durant’s volleyball team last advanced to the state tournament in 2007, when Dawn Hough, Thompson’s aunt and a Durant alum who helped bring home state volleyball championships in 2000 and 2001, was head coach.
It’s because of Hough, who also starred at Florida State, that Thompson plays the sport today.
“She started me in volleyball,” Thompson said. “She influenced me to play club, she influenced me to go here (to Durant). She’s been a part of it the entire time and I never would have played volleyball without her.”
Thompson has 346 kills this season, seven shy of the school’s single-season record. Thompson said she chose Mississippi because Oxford reminds her of Plant City.
“I tune everything out,” Thompson said. “I tune out the fans, I tune out the refs most of the time and coach. I just focus on what the other side is doing because when we’re all cheering in the middle and they’re hustling to their other side, it’s awesome to cheer, but on big points I’ll cheer. But other than that, I’m just focused on the next play and getting the win.”
During the region quarterfinal against Wiregrass Ranch, Thompson fell on her non-hitting hand in the second set when she dived for a dig. Thompson was in pain and shed a few tears, but after a timeout, she quickly gathered herself and returned to the floor.
“There’s no way I’ll ever sit a game out from now on, unless I can’t walk because it could be my last game as a high school player,” Thompson said.
Thompson finished the second set with one hand, had her injured thumb wrapped entering the third, and finished with a team-high 13 kills.
“She’s a tough athlete,” Durant coach Brittany Wade said. “She’s ready for college. She hurt her finger but more than anything, she’s a tough athlete.”
There’s an undeniable fire for volleyball, and above all, winning, that burns inside Thompson’s soul. And as far as she’s concerned, there’s nothing in the foreseeable future that will put it out.
“I’ve played for so long I just want to win,” she said. “We didn’t have great seasons the past two years and now that we’re doing so well, I just love it.”