Two years ago when Sarah Allyn Thornell was a sophomore and Amy Weatherington was the Tipton-Rosemark Academy assistant volleyball coach, player and coach had a bit of a disagreement.
“I guess we kind of butted heads because we’re both strong-willed people,” Thornell said.
“I am always going to push players further than they think they need to be pushed,” Weatherington said. “I just kind of got in her face and told her going halfway isn’t okay. I think she wasn’t used to it and it kind of caught her off guard because I had always been really sweet to her prior to that. I said, ‘I’m not going to apologize for trying to make you better and I’m not going to hold back.'”
Weatherington and Thornell got along just find after that and it played a role in what happened Wednesday afternoon. Thornell signed a volleyball scholarship with Itawamba Community College.
“It was over after that first week,” Thornell said. “She’s one of my favorite coaches now because we went through that together.”
“If you want to play in college I’m going to push to get there,” said Weatherington, who is now the team’s head coach. “Once we got past that and she realized that I coach with my whole heart and I love these kids so much she opened up to it.”
Thornell was a setter during her first three seasons on the team. Last season she transitioned into a role that included using her as a hitter and Thornell and the team thrived.
The Lady Rebels finished first in their league, went 22-4 and finished one win away from the state tournament. Goodpasture, the eventual state champ, edged Rosemark in the sub-state match.
“Last year I realized she’s such a strong offensive threat we needed her to be a hitter,” Weatherington said. “I talked to her and told her ‘This is what we needed as a team and are you ready to accept that?’ She basically said, ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to make us successful.’ She pushed through all the uncomfortableness and just took off.”
“I told her I would do anything for us to win,” Thornell said. “I just wanted to win.”
While Thornell’s physical skills clearly developed throughout her career, she also grew as a leader.
“She’s always been a leader for us, very outspoken and knows what she wants,” Weatherington said. “Over the years she just became more and more confident. She knows the game so well and not to doubt her ability. It’s kind of rare these days the kind of confidence she has.”
When Thornell visited the Itawamba campus in Fulton, Miss. she fell in love with the campus and the volleyball program. It also helped that will she will join a former teammate.
“My best friend Mary Leslie Cranford went there,” Thornell said. “That was a big part of why I chose Itawamba. It felt like home when I visited. It felt like the place I was supposed to be.”