Rayne Thompson felt like she was stuck in a bad dream she couldn’t wake up from.
The Whitehall volleyball star had prepared his entire sporting career for the opportunity to be the center point of his team’s attack ahead of his junior season last fall. Her journey took a drastic detour before it even started, however, as she injured her knee in a pre-season scrimmage and missed her entire junior campaign with a torn ACL and partially torn meniscus.
The setback could have derailed Thompson’s career, but instead caused the talented outside hitter to commit to the process and buckle up for the long journey ahead.
“It was a bit difficult at first, but just being there with my team was something that really meant to me, so I just wanted to support them and try to enjoy my junior season as much as possible,” said Thompson said of how she handled the viewing. his sideline team in 2020.
The Vikings won the Division 2 district championship last fall before retiring to Grand Rapids Christian in the regional semifinals. Everyone around the program entered the offseason with an extra ounce of confidence after the surprising playoff push and hope that their All-State-caliber outside hitter could join the roster in 2021.
Thompson recovered from her ACL surgery ahead of schedule and entered her trip’s physical therapy session with a desire to beat the odds.
“There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to play my senior season,” Thompson said. “It was kind of a personal competition for me where once I start something, I really can’t go back. If I wasn’t going to play volleyball in my junior year, I was going to put all my effort into my physiotherapy.
A strong support system was also key in Thompson’s battle back on the volleyball court as her mother, Annette Thompson, and Mike Braid, a personal trainer at i’move physical therapy, pushed her to her limits.
“(My mom) has been an incredible inspiration to me ever since she suffered an injury like that one time,” Thompson said. “My sister also had a knee injury so I had a great support system to lean on. My mom really pushed me to do my best with Mike Braid, my physical trainer. pushed too. I love being with these two people because I couldn’t have been where I am today without their help.
“He helped my sister with her physical therapy for a little while, so it was kind of a family bond that we already had. He’s the best of the best here and he and I had a great connection. He knew that when he gave me something to work on, I would do it outside of therapy as well. He trusted me to work 10x harder when I wasn’t in therapy and once I gained that confidence I would continue to push myself harder. I wanted to keep improving and getting stronger, so when I finally got back on the pitch, I could still play at a high level.
A new hobby was also born from Thompson’s return to volleyball, as she began to see results from her time in the gym.
“(Mike Braid) really introduced me to weight lighting, which I love doing now,” Thompson admitted. “Now that I’ve had physical therapy with him, it’s one of my favorite activities. I really wasn’t physically strong after my injury, and it really started to affect my mental strength because I didn’t I couldn’t do anything and I felt a bit depressed at first.
“Once I started losing weight it really helped me relieve stress, work towards something and achieve my goals again. It was amazing and now it’s something I I like it, and honestly, I like it more than volleyball sometimes.
Thompson was cleared to play volleyball in June 2021 and eventually resumed full team activities at camp in August. When she returned to action, the senior leader played with a newfound confidence and the results spoke for themselves.
The Vikings outside hitter finished her senior season with 566 kills, 374 digs, 60 aces and 53 blocks and helped Whitehall win its second consecutive district championship in the process. She finished her prep career with 1,254 kills, 903 digs, 156 blocks, and 143 aces in just 333 sets played overall.
She earned Michigan Volleyball Coaches Association All-State honors.
“I spoke to his coach before the season and he said Rayne was the best rehab athlete he’s ever had in 30 years of training,” Whitehall head coach Ted Edsall said. after the team’s District Championship win over Fruitport. “It’s phenomenal. I think she’s a much better player now than she was before the injury. She’s taken the time to get stronger and she’s more confident in her abilities now and she’s being rewarded with a really good senior season.
“I tell her every game that she has to be the best player on the pitch and that was certainly the case tonight.”
Edsall had a profound impact on Thompson’s career at Whitehall since she was a college volleyball player.
“He’s kind of a father figure to me,” Thompson said of his college coach. “He always pushed me to my limits. He always takes care of me, which I love, and he will never give up wanting the best of me. He opened up great opportunities for me and he’s been a part of my life since I was in seventh grade.
Thompson’s homecoming trip will open a new chapter next fall as the talented outside hitter continues her athletic and college career at Northern Michigan University.
“(Northern Michigan head coach) Mike Lozier has been a big part of my life,” Thompson said. “He’s been there for me since I had my knee surgery. We spoke on the phone a week after we did and we’ve been clicking ever since. We have a great bond. He coached me when I was at their team camp and ever since I visited them and met the team and saw them play everything I loved, Northern.
“There’s a great vibe there, I love the outdoors, I love the colors and I’m just super excited to play there and be a Wildcat.”
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