Maya Thornton To Continue Academic And Volleyball Career At Westminster (04/14/18)

Clarion Area’s Maya Thornton recently made the decision to continue her academic and volleyball career at Westminster College in New Wilmington.

The Titans, under coach Tammy Swearingen, are an NCAA Division III program, competing in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) and Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC). They won their first ECAC-III Championship in 2017 after finishing second in the PAC and finished the season at 30-6.

(Photo submitted) Maya Thornton, flanked by her proud parents Bridget and Jim Thornton, as she signs her letter of intent to play volleyball at Westminster. In the back are the equally proud Clarion Area assistant coach Erika Cathcart and head coach Shari Campbell.

Maya was an outside hitter for the Lady Cats, under coach Shari Campbell. She was Team Captain her junior and senior years (2016-17, 2017-18). She was All-Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference (KSAC) as a junior and All-KSAC, All-District Nine and Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association (PVCA) All-State as a senior.

Maya is that rare athlete who has been named All-State in two sports. She was named Honorable Mention (Outfielder) to the 2016 Pennsylvania High School Softball Coaches Association (PHSSCA) All-State Squad, as a sophomore.

Maya is planning a career as a public relations specialist.

As to her reasons for chosing Westminster, Maya said, “I chose Westminster because I liked the atmosphere that I experienced while visiting. The students and faculty were very welcoming and there was a lot of camaraderie on campus. I also had an opportunity to participate in an open gym with the team and felt a strong team chemistry. Coach Swearingen really sold me on Westminster academically and athletically.”

Listing some of what she believes are the qualities she brings to the Titans Volleyball program, Maya said, “I believe I am a very determined and competitive athlete. I have a strong work ethic, and love to lead by example. Because I am always looking to improve, I am a very coachable player and am willing to do whatever it takes to make myself and my team succeed.”

As for the challenge of the college game, Maya said, “I am looking forward to the increased intensity and speed of the game that the college level will bring. Although I am going to miss my former teammates and coaches at Clarion, I am excited to be a part of a new team and grow as a person and player.”

Maya’s older sisters were a major influence on the way she approached athletics. “I remember being in seventh grade and watching my oldest sister, Matti, and her team win the state title her senior season, and I knew then I wanted that someday. I had the privilege of having two older sisters that were very successful athletes that taught me the importance of hard work, dedication, and striving for excellence in every aspect of the game. They were such great examples and role models,” Maya stated.

Hard work during the off-season was a contributing factor in Maya and the Lady Cats success. She said, “My teammates and I also had the opportunity to do a strength and conditioning program at the YMCA called ‘Peak Performance,’ during the off-season every Summer and I believe that had a lot to do with our success in season.”

What was Maya’s top high school memory? “My favorite high school memory was definitely making it to the state semifinals my senior volleyball season by beating Northern Cambria in the state quarterfinals. There was nothing that compared to the atmosphere in the gym with all our friends and family cheering us on.”

And who are some of the ones who have helped Maya along the way? “I believe there were many people that helped me become the type of person and player that I am today.

“I would first like to mention my coach, Shari Campbell, who always pushed me to be the very best player that I could be, and for teaching me many life lessons through volleyball along the way. Coach Campbell helped to shape my character by teaching me about hard work, sacrifice, selflessness, perseverance, and  the importance of team unity.

“She taught me that nothing is handed to you, you must work for everything that you want to accomplish. She also reinforced that the memories I make playing high school volleyball are going to be the ones that I’ll remember forever, and boy was she right.

“I would like to thank my teammates for making me a better player in the practice gym, for trusting me to lead them, and for being my very best friends.

“I would like to thank God for blessing me with the gifts and opportunities he’s given me, and lastly I would like to thank my friends and family for always supporting me and believing in me.”

Maya’s parents Jim and Bridget Thornton had this to say, “We are very proud of Maya and grateful for the many opportunities she has had through her high school years to develop her as a person, student and athlete. She has learned the value of hard work, staying true to who you are, leading by example, and valuing friendship, comradery, and unselfishness.

“We are excited for this new chapter in her life.  Westminster is a great school and we look forward to what they have to offer both academically and athletically.    We are confident she will continue to grow as a person and student-athlete,  and we will always be her biggest fans on and off the court. We feel very blessed to be her parents.”

Coach Swearingen mentioned some of the qualities that led her to recruit Maya, “Maya has a great personality, is very athletic and has great competitive spirit.”    

As for where Maya fits into the Westminster Volleyball program and what Maya has to offer, Coach Swearingen said, “Maya is going to work at two positions here at Westminster.  We will take a look at her as an outside hitter and a defensive specialist.  She is a bit undersized for the outside, but plays hard and with heart.  You never know what athletes like that are capable of.  Regardless of her height, she plays aggressive defense and I love good defensive players.

“I believe that Maya will bring a strong work ethic, love for the game and competitive spirit.”

Coach Swearingen continued, “Maya comes from a competitive program with a very good coach in Shari Campbell.  She is conditioned to work hard and to compete for playing time which is what she will have to do at Westminster.   The coaching staff and I are eager to get her in the gym and get started with the team.  We are excited to have Maya join our squad.”

The Westminster mentor shared this about some of the highlights from last season, “The 2017 season was one of many exciting experiences for the Westminster Volleyball Team.

“Through major fundraising by the individual players, the returning athletes kicked off looking forward to the season with a foreign trip to Costa Rica.   The team was able to practice and compete against three competitive Costa Rica University/College Teams to start preparation for the 2017 season. The Titan squad participated in giving back to the community by working a clinic for Special Olympians and a third grade class at a local elementary school. With all of that being said, the Titans still found time to go white water rafting, take a catamaran cruise to an island for a day in the sun, hike in the rain forest and experience the thermal volcanic heated waters of Baldi Springs. It was an unbelievable trip!

“The Titans returned to campus after their Costa Rica trip and jumped right in to the pre-season, welcoming their first years and setting sites on a PAC Championship. The Titans earned the second seed going in to the PAC Championships and unfortunately, lost to Thomas More in a very competitive Championship match. Although they were disappointed to not win the PAC Championship, they were given a second chance by earning a selection in the ECAC D-III Championship Tournament.  The Titans were not going to be denied in this tournament going 4-0 and winning the first ECAC – III Championship for Westminster Volleyball and finishing the season with a 30-6 record.”

Lady Cats Mentor Shari Campbell had this to say about Maya, “Westminster College and the Women’s Volleyball Program is a great match for Maya.  The team values ball control and a defensive mindset and Maya certainly brings that to the court.  Maya has been a leader for Clarion Area Volleyball at every level she has played.  I look for this to continue at Westminster.  This leadership comes through as she serves as a role model for hustle and she brings an enthusiasm through her communication style.  Other players respect these qualities in Maya.

“Offensively, I see her being able to contribute from the serving line right away, due to her tough and consistent jump serve.  Coach Swearingen is also looking for her to contribute as a hitter.  I am excited that May has this opportunity and know she will rise to the challenge.

“Academically, I think it is a great fit for Maya.”