Growing up in Alabama, Trey Thornton had to go well out of his way to develop his volleyball talent.

While many sports allow kids to join a league nearly from the time they can walk, Thornton had to get creative to pursue his favorite sport.

In Alabama, no boys teams existed for Thornton to join. So, when he was 11, he joined a girls team, where he learned the fundamentals of volleyball.

After seeing Thornton’s and other boys’ eagerness to play volleyball, the girls club team directors decided to make a boys team.

“I knew of two other boys that played volleyball, so I knew there were boys that wanted to play,” Thornton said. “The club directors were supportive, and they advertised it well. I think we had 10 boys on the team and there were about 20 boys that tried out. It was amazing because we were all different ages. We were from all different places, and we all came together on that team.”

Thornton then moved to Tennessee and played on a club team there, but he moved to Utah just in time for the inaugural sanctioned boys volleyball season.

High school boys volleyball: Deseret News 2024 Players of the Year provided versatility and leadership for their teams

Maple Mountain was the lucky team to add 6-foot-7 outside hitter Thornton to their roster and he put his stamp on the season with 395 kills, a .355 hitting percentage, 237 digs and 39 aces.

The Golden Eagles dominated the 5A state tournament, clinching the state title without dropping a single set. Thornton especially shined in the championship match against Brighton, delivering 20 kills.

Thornton became a crucial tool for Maple Mountain and his performance throughout the season named him the first-ever Deseret News Mr. Volleyball recipient.

“I got really lucky because (Maple Mountain’s) coaching staff is amazing,” said Thornton. “Then the team itself, we all really got along. I don’t think it was even the volleyball aspect that won us state. I think it came down to how much we liked each other and how we came together as a family.”

When talking about Thornton, Maple Mountain head coach Geoff Wright said Thornton’s character is just as great and just as important as his volleyball talent.

“Trey is just a really good person,” said Wright. “He’s not arrogant, he’s very humble despite being a really fantastic player and person.”

It was a surprise to Wright when Thornton moved into Maple Mountain, but after meeting Thornton at a volleyball kickoff event, Wright was excited to work with him.

“He was the new kid,” Wright said. “He didn’t know anybody, so I said, ‘I’ll take the new kid.’ We were playing 2v2 beach volleyball and I thought, ‘Hey, this kid’s not bad.’ It was the first time we got to know him and he got along well with all the kids and that’s how it all started.”

High school boys volleyball: Deseret News 2024 6A All-State team
High school boys volleyball: Deseret News 2024 5A All-State team
High school boys volleyball: Deseret News 2024 4A All-State team
High school boys volleyball: Deseret News 2024 3A All-State team

Throughout the season, Wright pushed Thornton to take a leadership role on Maple Mountain, which he was hesitant to accept.

Eventually, Thornton found his footing as a leader and he learned to uplift his teammates and found ways to contribute outside of just his volleyball talent.

Maple Mountain then ended the season with 17 consecutive wins and held a 24-2 season record.

“What Trey brought, especially after he got over his cold feet, was leadership, work ethic, and an example which he had learned in the other clubs he had played,” Wright said.

“We start every practice exactly on the minute. The boys could show up an hour early and stay an hour late to work on personal development. Trey was there early with a kid who had never played volleyball before and Trey became his best friend on the team. That kid went from the bench and ended as a starter for us.

“Trey’s mentoring was a huge deal, but I think he also saw that our system was a serious system and it excited him.”

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With a state championship and Mr. Volleyball honors on his resume, Thornton undoubtedly had a successful season, yet one goal remained.

Thornton has always aspired to play on BYU’s men’s volleyball team.

Well, this month, his volleyball journey came full circle as Thornton gave his commitment to BYU.

“It’s always been my big goal to make it to BYU,” Thornton said. “It feels good seeing all the hard work, those days in the gym, and playing in all these tournaments in so many different places pay off. Then seeing on June 15, the hard work paying off with all the colleges reaching out, it is just really gratifying.”

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