RICHMOND – Quinn Menger was in 7th grade when she and Claire Ellis first became teammates. Ellis was in 8th. They’ve played on 14u nationals and 15u nationals teams together in club volleyball, and they’re in their fourth season playing alongside one another for St. Catherine’s.
Over the years, they’ve held each other to high standards, and as a passer-setter duo, Ellis, from Goochland, and Menger, from Powhatan, have been able to take up leadership roles on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, with each side picking up the other.
They were also helping keep their teammates loose before each set on Wednesday versus Trinity Episcopal, smiling and sharing handshakes that had the appearance and rhythm of miniature dance routines.
“I think one of the most important things is to always remember to have fun,” Menger said. “Even before mid-match, letting loose is very important.”
“Because everyone’s here because they love the sport,” Ellis said.
When play commenced, St. Catherine’s stayed in rhythm from Sets 1 to 3, sweeping Trinity (25-9, 25-11, 25-10) to stay unbeaten through four matches after the Virginia Volleyball Showcase at Richmond Volleyball Club. The Saints haven’t dropped a single set in their last four games.
“We made sure to talk at practice [against Trinity], before this game, that we cannot make little errors because they’re going to feed off of that,” Ellis said. “We have to play our game…keep it going.”
“We practice ball control at length every practice,” noted St. Catherine’s coach Skip Weston. “Ball control and playing defense keeps you in games.”
And Ellis, Weston said, does a good job of running the back row; he added that she’s much more vocal than some of the younger players.
“We need that communication,” Weston said.
Ellis contributed 21 digs while sophomore Elise Williamson behind her made 11. Ellis was pretty proud of the Saints' deep defensive effort, with Menger and senior Jessie Atkinson adding 9 digs each and freshman Bella Lupica making 7.
“We just have to keep talking, and if we talk, it gets better and better,” Ellis said. “Everyone played their heart out when going for balls – they were diving.”
Menger was among the Saints who made a diving save; she also rushed wide of the net to keep a point in play that one of her teammates finished off for a kill late in the match.
Setting-wise, Menger tallied up 34 assists. She also had 4 kills, including an airborne shot for St. Catherine's 16th point in the second set. Her on-the-money placement while setting complemented the power-hitting trio of senior Jailah Channer, junior Rian Sherod and Williamson as they showcased their ability to smash the ball over with Channer mixing in a few dinks.
Channer led the team in kills (14) and added 3 blocks. Sherod led the team in blocks (5) and made 13 kills. Williamson had 8 kills.
“I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by experienced people who love the game just as much as I do,” Menger said. “Me calling plays...they’re flexible with it, and I think that helps a lot, because then I’m more flexible with manipulating the other team…
"I love playing with them," Menger said of her teammates, "and then the communication just gets there, and they’re there, and then I’m there, and it goes our way.”
Compared to last year, Weston described this year’s group as a little more experienced.
“I think that we’re getting a little bit older and a lot of teams that we’re playing are getting younger,” Weston said. “We have the benefit of some experience – Quinn started as an 8th grader…and Claire started as a freshman, so we had the benefit of having them in the lineup for a long time.”
Weston said he’s happy to be in the situation they’re in as they continue forward. The Saints next play at Collegiate on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m.