Thomas volleys to Hampton

Published 10:03 pm Thursday, April 24, 2014

Nansemond River High School’s Tatyana Thomas signed on Wednesday to patrol the volleyball net for Hampton University. From left: Romonta Thomas, Tatyana Thomas, Nytalya Thomas and Brian Thomas.

Nansemond River High School’s Tatyana Thomas signed on Wednesday to patrol the volleyball net for Hampton University. From left: Romonta Thomas, Tatyana Thomas, Nytalya Thomas and Brian Thomas.

Nansemond River senior Tatyana Thomas has no long history with the sport of volleyball, but her diligence and hard work during her high school years made that irrelevant.

She signed on Wednesday to play for Hampton University before a gathering of friends, family and coaches at Nansemond River High School.

“I wasn’t always somebody who did sports, so to be playing four years high school and three years club and going to play (Division I) volleyball is good,” Thomas said.

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She has four years of experience total, having started club play as a sophomore, and did not develop the goal to play at the college level until her junior year.

“I knew my brother had played football in college, and I wanted to be able to provide for myself, because college is expensive, be able to make it easy on my parents,” she said.

She considered some different collegiate options, but Hampton ultimately won out.

“I knew I wanted to be close for my little sister, I didn’t want to leave her too far, and it’s a nice program,” Thomas said, noting a mid-January campus visit sold her on the school. “The coaches, they seem like they’ll be really helpful.”

Her coaches who have helped her in high school were excited to see her take this big step. During the signing ceremony, Lady Warriors head coach Nicole Johnson said, “Tatyana is one of the most hard-working, talented, potential-filled volleyball players that I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching.”

She listed Thomas’ high school accolades, which include being a four-year letterman in the sport and being named to the all-district first team as a sophomore and junior. As a senior, she was unanimously voted the Ironclad Conference Player of the Year and also made the all-region and all-state second teams.

“I’m really proud of her,” Johnson said in regard to the Hampton signing. “I think it’s a really good fit for her, as well. I know they’ve got a new coach building a new strong program out there, so that’s good. I look forward to being able to still watch her play, being in the area.”

Johnson also acknowledged the degree to which the 6-foot-3-inch Thomas was not as challenged by the competition as she always could have been in high school.

“I look forward to seeing her be able to play amongst her own level,” the coach said, and being able to rise to that occasion.

Robyn Ross was also present for the signing, serving as Thomas’ coach with the Nansemond Volleyball Club, where Thomas said she developed the most as a player.

“I can remember the day that she walked into the gym for tryouts when she was 16 and just immediately seeing all the potential that she had and really being thankful that they chose me and they chose our club to help her on that journey,” Ross said, referring to her parents. “And so to see her today, with her goal fulfilled and a full ride to a D1 school, is amazing.”

Her little sister, 11-year-old Nytalya, and her parents, Brian and Romonta Thomas, were on hand Wednesday, as well.

In reaction to the signing, Romonta Thomas said she was excited. Her husband finished the thought when he said they were “proud of her, real proud of her. She’s worked hard.”

They look forward to seeing her play regularly, with Hampton only being a 20-minute drive away.

Tatyana Thomas anticipates being used in the middle for the Lady Pirates, though Johnson hopes the coaches will see her potential as an outside player, as well.