Ramiyah Thompson is still relatively new to volleyball, but her rapid improvement since starting the sport her sophomore year has yielded her the opportunity to be a college athlete.
The McMinn County senior signed a letter of intent to continue her education and volleyball career at Johnson University in Knoxville during a ceremony Friday at McMinn County High School.
“So I’ve only been playing for a little bit, but I’ve learned a lot and gained a lot of knowledge about volleyball and the game,” Thompson said. “I’ve definitely started hitting harder, started blocking better, and I feel like I’ve connected with people on the team a lot more, and I feel like that has helped me become a better player.”
Thompson, who intends to major in nursing, was also pursued by a few other colleges, including Cleveland State and Chattanooga State community colleges, but after talking with Johnson for a year, she knew where she was headed — and a visit to the campus only confirmed that.
“I really feel like Johnson is the best fit for me,” Thompson said. “When I went there for the visit, it just felt right, so that’s why I chose Johnson. They’re a Christian college, and I really like that they’re small and connected, and that was my main reason for choosing them, and I really like their program.”
Joining the Lady Cherokees one year into high school, it was not too long before the 6’2” Thompson started making an impact and head coach Taylor South took notice. By her senior season, she was leading McMinn in blocks and kills.
“She (Thompson) has been a great asset to the program, and I am really excited for her future with volleyball,” South said. “She had a huge impact on our team especially in the middle. She was a huge presence with our offense and our defense.
“As a middle hitter it is definitely an advantage to be the height that she is, and she really picked up on the game quickly because she had not played before. So she really was able to excel with the sport.”
And soon Thompson started attracting the attention of colleges, including Johnson, who saw the potential she had even with her limited experience in volleyball compared to a lot of other players.
“My husband, who is also my assistant coach, went and watched her play last year and was very impressed with her,” said Johnson head coach Robin Vannoy, who was present at Thompson’s signing. “And we have been keeping an eye on her for a year now and just watching her club tournaments and her high school videos. We’re so excited. She’s got so much potential with her height and just our program building each year. I think she is definitely going to come in and be an asset to us.”
Vannoy expects that Thompson can develop into a force near the net for Johnson, which is a member of the NAIA’s Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC), which Tennessee Wesleyan is also in.
“When she came and worked out with the team I can see her playing the middle or even the right side because of her big block,” Vannoy said. “She’s going to be working on getting quicker during the offseason, and she’s the type of athlete who wants to do her best and so she’s pushing herself even right now in the offseason.”
Thompson’s goals once she gets to Johnson are a matter of self-improvement on and off the court.
“I hope that I’ll become an even better player and continue to do better in my education and further myself as a human being,” Thompson said. “I hope to do well, I hope to get the playing time and do all that stuff and practice hard.”