Hannah Thompson’s high school soccer career has been anything but ordinary, but it has been successful.
Because of her on-field accomplishments, Thompson has the chance to continue playing at the college level. The North Oconee High School senior made that official in December by signing with the Emmanuel College women’s soccer program.
Thompson celebrated the milestone during a ceremony held inside the North Oconee field house. She was joined by a large group of supporters as she inked the necessary scholarship documents.
“It's extremely meaningful,” Thompson said. “Here in Oconee, it's like a big family. Everybody knows everybody, so having everybody plus my family be here, it means the world. It's like having one huge bubble of people.”
North Oconee head coach Ben Grassmyer was also in attendance. He spoke to the crowd and detailed Thompson’s journey with the Lady Titans, beginning with her first appearance on the field.
That appearance – which came during a scrimmage game – sold Grassmyer on Thompson’s abilities.
“Hannah Thompson has had a very storybook high school career thus far,” Grassmyer said. “Her freshman year, Hannah missed tryouts. I knew who she was, knew she was talented. I knew she had a good chance at the varsity team, so my plan was to use our varsity scrimmage as her tryout. The whole second half, she would play as a goalkeeper. That second half comes and she steps in and commands the field. I had never seen a freshman command a field like she did that game. She had multiple saves, organized the players in front of her, yelling at seniors telling them what to do and she consistently communicated.”
Unfortunately for Thompson, the ending of that scrimmage led to an injury.
Thompson readied herself in the goal as an opponent prepared to deliver a penalty kick. The then-freshman recorded a save, stopping the shot from going into the net.
But the play also resulted in a broken leg.
Thompson was hurt, but Grassmyer said her spirit was not broken.
“It was a crazy scene to see,” Grassmyer said. “I sprint over there and the first thing she says is, 'I saved it,' and that was mind-blowing to me. The second thing she said was, 'Can I have a doughnut.' I visited her in the hospital that evening. She got a rod placed in her leg and I think the most amazing thing about all of this is, three months later, she was cleared to play and we placed her back in a game. ... That just shows her character and her mental toughness. The ability to go through that and jump back on a field is amazing.”
From then on, Thompson has seen nothing but success with the Lady Titans.
She owns the single-season program records for shutouts and goals against.
Last year, she helped North Oconee win its first-ever state championship.
“Her high school story began tragically but she picked herself back up and is now a state champion,” Grassmyer said. “I've always said Hannah is one you want to go to battle with. You want her on your side. And we are very fortunate she's a leader on our team.”
Throughout all of those experiences, Thompson had her sights set on a college career.
Thompson began playing the game at a young age. Ever since then, she wanted to compete at the highest levels possible.
“I started playing soccer when I could walk, around 2 or 3 years old,” Thompson said. “Ever since I watched my first national women's game and heard of college when I was a kid, I have wanted to play. It's always been a dream.”
Thompson had her options during the recruiting process.
In the end, the team atmosphere at Emmanuel College was too good to pass on. Thompson said the dynamics within the team convinced her to join the Lady Lions.
“When I went to go and practice with them and I met everybody there, I knew,” she said. “It's true: When you know, you know. I'm just excited to get started and see where it takes me in life.”
Thompson said she plans to study teaching as well as forensic science.
She has goals on the field with the Lady Lions, too, but Thompson is not finished checking off goals as a Lady Titan.
“There are goals in high school still that I want to accomplish,” Thompson said. “Now that I made a new record, I want to break my record again. But in college, I definitely want to keep my shutout streaks going. I want to keep those alive. I want to bring something new to the team, and I feel like I've done that already, just meeting the girls and making my personality be there. I really feel like, being there, I can make a difference with the team.”
Thompson and her North Oconee teammates will soon begin the 2022 season.
They will do so as the reigning Class AAAA state champions.
North Oconee is hoping for a repeat performance this season. Thompson said she believes the Lady Titans have the ability to get it done.
“I could not be more proud,” she said about the program that she and her teammates helped established. “I feel like a proud mom. Having freshmen on our team that don't know what it feels like to lose is kind of nerve-wracking but exciting at the same time – nerve-wracking, solely because it's gonna hurt them much worse if we lose, but it's also super exciting because that is the type of mindset that we want going into the season: not losing, not wanting to feel that feeling of losing. So, I think that whole morale is gonna keep going throughout this next season.”