SUBMITTED BY ANDY PHILPOT –
For the majority of high school student-athletes that walk across the graduation stage to receive their diploma, they have played their final games of their athletic careers. For 2017 Mena Ladycat and graduate, Sealy Thigpen, there were still volleyball games awaiting her in the future. Before her playing career would be taken to the next level at Cowley College in Arkansas City, Kansas, Thigpen had one more high school volleyball game to play, which took place last week.
After being named as a volleyball all-star after concluding her senior season with the Ladycats, Thigpen was chosen as one of 14 all-stars for the West team, with the game set to be played during the AHSCA (Arkansas High School Coaches Association) All-Star Week in Conway, Arkansas. The all-star games were held at the University of Central Arkansas, with the volleyball game being played last Wednesday, June 21 at the Farris Center. Twenty-eight volleyball players from around the state of Arkansas received the honor of being named an all-star, which is eligible to players after their senior season.
In addition to being Mena High School’s only 2017 all-star, Thigpen felt an even deeper honor than most students may experience.
“The most exciting thing for me being picked as an all-star would have to be getting to be part of the same honor that both my mother and my brother received before,” Thigpen said. “They were both picked as basketball all-stars. My mom (Mena Coach Rhonda Thigpen) actually helped start the first all-star game for volleyball back in the day, so it’s an honor to say that my awesome mom was part of that. At the time, there was only football and basketball all-star games being held, and she was the head volleyball coach at Henderson State University. She had the Mizuno company to sponsor them. Thanks to her, volleyball started getting recognized, as well.”
Being named an ASHCA All-Star is an honor in itself, but the experience gained by these players are unique in itself. For Thigpen, who knows a collegiate volleyball career is just starting, she did not take these few days for granted.
“The overall experience was very cool,” Thigpen said. “I got to play with the best of the best in the state , and it was great connecting with players I’ve played against for the past few years. I believe the all-star game helped give me an edge heading into college. Meeting everybody on Monday, then only having three practices together before you play a game together…I had to learn what everybody liked and didn’t like as far as me setting the ball goes in a short time frame. This helped with communicating and being a leader with girls I’ve never played with before.”
Thigpen also commented how she enjoyed all the different all-star teams of different sports, not only did they have the chance to interact during the week, but the teams who weren’t playing at the same time as another game attended the other games to support their fellow all-stars.
Thigpen saw action in four of the five games of the all-star match, not only showing her skills with setting the ball, but also had several rounds of momentum with her serves on the night. After losing the first two games, the West all-star squad won the next three, with Thigpen being on the winning side of the talent showcase.
Once the game concluded, so officially did her high school volleyball career. While there is more volleyball awaiting her, she’s not soon forgetting her time at Mena High School.
“Getting to play one more game representing Mena was a dream come true,” Thigpen stated. “I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a Ladycat and getting to play for Coach (Brad) Lyle. He’s been a major influence in my life, and I couldn’t have done it without his help.”
Now Thigpen’s prime focus is on taking her game to the next level, challenging herself to transform her talents to the college level.
“I have high hopes for my future in volleyball, and I feel I couldn’t be starting at a better place,” Thigpen said, looking ahead to her college days. “My college coach, Coach Gream, drove all the way from Kansas to watch me play in the all-star game. I know I have somebody who is willing to do anything for me, and as a player going to a new town far from home, that is very important to me. I plan to work hard every day and hopefully get to continue my career at a high level even after Cowley.”
The Cowley Tiger volleyball season gets started with scrimmages on August 18, with their first regular season game set for August 25.