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Jordan Thompson inspires the next wave of Cincinnati volleyball stars

Jordan Thompson talks to camp participants Saturday at the Jordan Thompson Camp Powered By UA Next in Cincinnati. (Mina Park/Just Women’s Sports)

CINCINNATI — Prior to when Olympic gold medalist Jordan Thompson enrolled at the University of Cincinnati in 2015, the Bearcats’ Volleyball team had never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. She committed to coach Molly Alvey’s 3-29 program with the goal of four years of solid playing time.

By the time she left, she had set the UC single-season record for kills (827 in 2018), the NCAA record for kills per set (6.27) and was named a First Team All-American in her final season.

On Saturday, Thompson returned to Fifth Third Arena to lead another group, as more than 30 local high school and middle school volleyball players took part in the inaugural Jordan Thompson Camp Powered By Under Armour Next.

The invite-only event allowed these high-level players the opportunity to connect with and compete against one another on the Bearcats’ home court, in addition to, of course, a few hours of learning from an Olympian who grew both on and off that same court.

“I hope to share wisdom and knowledge that I’ve learned along the way and pass that on,” Thompson told the athletes. “I’m really awkward, so I’m easy to talk to. I want to be a resource for you guys.”

The invitees received custom-made uniforms designed with Thompson and her connection to UC in mind.

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Camp participants listen to Jordan Thompson speak Saturday at the Jordan Thompson Camp Powered By UA Next in Cincinnati. (Mina Park/Just Women's Sports)

Camp opened with the athletes’ own personal media day, which included headshots, slow-motion video and Tik Tok dances that showed a true taste of the increasingly important role that social media plays in the world of college athletics, particularly in women’s sports.

The buzz of laughter and loud music echoed throughout Fifth Third Arena, and by the time the drills began, the competition was fierce.

However, the atmosphere retained its joy.

The camp roster featured top talent of varying ages. It included athletes who have played together for years on local club teams, as well as others who have played against one another and those who have never met.

Among the represented clubs were two of the top teams in the nation — Tri-State Elite (OH) and Elevation (OH). The highly-rated recruits included outside hitter Lucy Arndt (2023), libero Kelsey Niesen (2024), middle blocker Faith Young (2024), outside hitter Sophia Adkins (2024) and setter Ryan Hicks (2025).

But regardless of team or individual rankings, Thompson reminded every athlete that they had the potential to succeed.

Through a variety of drills and challenges — sometimes forcing an athlete to play a position she wasn’t necessarily used to, while other times being thrown into a random group and expected to find synergy — all 30-plus campers managed to find a little success.

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Camp participants take part in drills Saturday at the Jordan Thompson Camp Powered By UA Next in Cincinnati. (Mina Park/Just Women's Sports)

Three MVPs found a lot of it, as Hicks, Young and 2024 setter Kiana Dinn took home the top honors.

“It was a great experience for me,” Hicks said. “Experiencing new players is really important to any athlete. Getting to learn from everyone is really fun.”

In between drills, Thompson answered questions about all aspects of her career, whether it be her favorite moment as a Bearcat (when the team finally swept rival UCF at home) or her preferred hype music (Afrobeats).

But the responses that seemed to resonate the most with the athletes were those detailing the individual journey of someone so talented and full of effort that she became a starter in what was only her second full summer with Team USA, and how the journey hasn’t really been individual at all.

“I love that it’s a team sport,” Thompson said. “I’m doing something that can’t be done alone.”

Thompson credits Coach Jackie Richter, her volleyball coach during freshman year of high school, as a mentor whose guidance majorly impacted where and who she is today.

“She was the first coach to see a lot of potential in me,” Thompson said, “even when I didn’t see that potential in myself. I remember, it wasn’t even just about volleyball. It was those little things that she instilled in me and she really helped me to see the potential that I had and gain that confidence.

“I think when you have those people in your life, it’s really important to hold them dear because they’re pouring so much into you.”

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Camp participants take part in drills Saturday at the Jordan Thompson Camp Powered By UA Next in Cincinnati. (Mina Park/Just Women's Sports)

Even in the face of adversity, Thompson has used these lessons to push through and continue to grow and thrive. She cited two specific injuries that knocked her down — the first being a torn UCL while in college, and the second being an ankle injury at the Tokyo Olympics that sidelined her for much of the Olympics after scoring over 30 points against top-seeded China.

“I think I’m still processing that one,” Thompson said. “But it taught me that there are those beautiful moments in life where you’re on this mountaintop. Things were happening that I never even imagined were possible for me as a player. And then to get injured and not be able to step on the court again at the Olympics made me realize that everybody’s journey is different. There’s a lot of beauty in those differences. I think you can have that mountaintop experience, and your teammate next to you can be counting down the minutes until it’s over.

“Gratitude is really huge as you move through life. I think that helps me stay joyful. I’ve learned a lot from my injuries that really have nothing to do with the sport, but just growing as a person.”

Caroline Makauskas is a contributing writer for Just Women’s Sports. She also writes about college basketball for Blue Ribbon Sports and covers a variety of sports on her TikTok @cmakauskas. Follow her on Twitter @cmakauskas.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

One former player contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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