Refined by the beach
Playing beach volleyball helped Fruita's Thomson improve her indoor game
Not long after she competed on a beach volleyball court for the first time, Dana Thomson could feel the difference.
“The first little period is definitely, well, you’re really sore,” the Fruita Monument High School outside hitter said. “The transition from indoor to beach and from beach to indoor is really funny. Going into beach, I kept telling myself ‘Oh, this is so hard. It’s hard to get up. I’m so slow.’
“Then you come indoors. All of the sudden, you’re saying to yourself, ‘Wow! I’m really fast now and I’m jumping really high!’ It messes up your timing, but it’s a good thing to have to adjust to the new skills you have.”
Thomson has adjusted very well for the ninth-ranked Wildcats (11-1), who are off to their best start since 2010 when they won 15 of their first 16. The senior’s increased maturity level and her ability to transfer the skills she learned playing the two-person beach game into the six-player indoor version have helped her this season.
“Beach volleyball players tend to read a lot better since there are only two players on the court and there’s a lot of ground for two people to cover,” Richardson said. “They make shots, play defense and they’re a little smarter, and that’s definitely the case for her.”
The 6-foot Thomson started playing beach volleyball with her club team, United Volleyball Club of the Rockies based out of Glenwood Springs, last season. This summer she paired with Eagle Valley libero Jillian Byron to qualify for the USA Volleyball Beach National Championships in Siesta Key, Florida. Thomson and Byron finished 75th in the 87-team field.
Where they finished didn’t bother Thomson one bit.
“The kind of experience we got was amazing,” she said. “We were playing against people who had been on a beach volleyball court for years, and here we were from a small town in Colorado swinging right with them.”
Thomson’s volleyball experience will continue in college as the she verbally committed to play for South Dakota Mines on Thursday.
Thomson said the key to success in beach volleyball as opposed to indoor volleyball is efficiency — expending as little energy as possible while making your opponent work as hard as possible. Playing beach volleyball added to her repertoire as an outside hitter for the Wildcats, allowing her to use tips and placement shots just as effectively as a more-common full-swing spike.
Thomson’s expanded attack arsenal has made a huge difference. She posted double-digit kills in nine of the Wildcats first 12 matches, including back-to-back 17-kill performances against Rock Canyon and Arapahoe on Sept. 1.
Thomson also had 17 kills in a three-set win against Grand Junction on Tuesday. Richardson said her newfound abilities have given an extra offensive weapon to Fruita, which had been heavily dependent on senior hitter Riley Snyder the previous two seasons.
Thomson’s additional arsenal has caught some teams by surprise.
“There would be times in practice where we’d see what she could do and be amazed, but for some reason it didn’t always carry over into a game,” Richardson said. “Maybe it’s because of the beach stuff or because she’s a year older with volleyball experience, but she’s developed more consistency. There’s a few teams we’ve played that have wondered where that came from, but we always knew it was there.”
Thomson hopes her ability to take her attack arsenal from practice into games continues and helps the Wildcats continue to improve.
“We were very disappointed with our finish last year,” Thomson said. “That’s really pushing all of us to go further and not only make it to state, but maybe even be in the top five. If we keep playing our own game and playing how we can play, we’ll go far.”