When it comes to defining any athlete’s success, it is easy to only look at how many games were won or where they ranked in the league. But in volleyball, where winning is so reliant on team success and chemistry, it can be hard to judge a player’s impact on the game without statistics to show you the whole picture. Setters look at how effective their assist rate is and how often their hitters get killed. Liberos look at how often they make a perfect reception. For outsides and opposites, attack percentages tend to be lower in the .300 with how often they get set during a game. Then, middles are constantly grinding to prove their worth, aiming to hit the golden number of attacks at a .500 positive kill rate.
Any game for a middle averaging above a .500 in hitting or more than one block a set is great, but to keep that average for an entire season puts them up amongst the greats! Thomas Burrell, middle blocker for the Chicago Untouchables, has put down some impressive numbers in his career. In high school, Thomas was already a pure middle blocker running when zero tempo sets when other middles have developed the athleticism to do the same. He was named the Division III Statistical Champion as he led the state in blocks per set.
He committed to play at the Stevens Institute of Technology in University, where he led the team with 116 blocks and was named NCAA Statistical Champion with 1.426 blocks per set in his last season. He also finished second in the nation with a .507 hitting percentage in his senior season, getting 217 kills on 351 attempts. His blistering performance made him a First Team AVCA All-American, got him selected for the First Team All-UVC, and was named the Empire 8 Player of the Year. On top of getting such great accolades, he pushed Steven’s Ducks to win the NCAA D-III National Championship in 2015 and take runner-up in 2018.
Thomas has been a fantastic player to come out from the east coast and has earned his spot as one of the highest-level athletes to join the NVA this last year. First involved with Team Freedom’s second team, Thomas, made his debut in the NVA with the Tennessee Tyrants. They made a solid run through the playoffs finishing fourth in the league, leaving teams bewildered. Burrell still had explosive and powerful as ever, proving to be the top middle for his team and 4th best in the whole league. One highlight from his gameplay was an absolute banger of a push ball against the Utah Stingers. The attack caught both USA National Players Russel Holmes and Jake Langlois off guard.
The Chicago Untouchables are lucky to have picked up such a powerhouse player and are ready to make a run for the 2021 Championship Podium. To get weekly social media updates on Thomas this season, you can follow him (@tburrell343), the NVA (@nvausa), and the Chicago Untouchables (@untouchables_nvausa) on Instagram and Facebook as well as their website (https://untouchables.nvausa.com/). As always, fans can check out the NVA on YouTube to catch reruns of Thomas’s 2020 Championship performance with the Tennessee Tyrants. Additionally, people can find live-stream coverage for all upcoming events starting April 23rd.