By ZACH JOACHIM | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Nov 1, 2019
At one point during the first set of Friday’s LIS championship, St. Catherine’s senior libero Claire Ellis threw herself to the floor chasing after a ball she had no chance to catch.
Ellis, St. Catherine’s all-time leader in digs, learned earlier Friday that she was playing on a fractured femur. Doctors cleared her to play through the end of the season, then she has to take 12 weeks off.
“No ball is down until it hits the floor, you have to make an effort for everything,” Ellis said of her mindset as the Saints’ defensive anchor.
Her coach, Skip Weston, called Ellis “just a gutsy kid.”
Ellis finished with 21 digs and two aces to lead St. Catherine’s in a straight-sets victory over Collegiate.
The win gave the Saints their eighth consecutive LIS title, and ninth in the last 10 years.
They also closed out their third straight undefeated LIS season.
“It’s always in our vision,” Weston said of how important an LIS title is to his program. But he added that his players have higher aspirations.
“We want to make it into the state tournament and have some success there,” he said.
“States is up at the top [of our goals],” Ellis agreed.
Senior middle Jailah Channer had 10 kills and three blocks. Weston said she will leave St. Catherine’s as the program’s all-time leader in blocks with more than 300.
Channer said the Saints have grown as a team this year. Over the course of the season, they’ve become closer as they strive toward a collective goal — the state tournament.
“Just through practicing and realizing that our goal is to win states and working toward that goal, we definitely were able to get better and focus more,” Channer said.
St. Catherine’s junior setter Quinn Menger had 29 assists, seven kills and three blocks. Menger has committed to play at Penn State, one of the nation’s leading college programs.
Channer said she and her fellow hitters, namely junior Rian Sherod and sophomore Elise Williamson, have a special relationship with Menger.
The players always seem to know where one another is, and how to collectively attack their opposition.
“We have clicked ever since we started on varsity together, it was an instant dynamic that we’ve always had. … The setter and her hitters should always be linked together mindset-wise,” Channer said.
Ellis, Menger, Channer, Sherod and Williamson were all named to the LIS first team, along with Collegiate freshman Gabby Chen and seniors Abby Freeman and Walker Miller.
Miller, who’s Cougars will go on to play in the state tournament as well, said her group coveted the opportunity to compete in an LIS title match. Miller had four kills and five blocks Friday. Freeman contributed six kills and nine digs.
“We have all been so close throughout the years. So to compete in the championship is just a real great accomplishment that has brought us even closer,” Miller said.
Weston was emotional after the game when asked about his senior class. Although the Saints still have their ultimate goal ahead of them, he couldn’t help but express pride in a senior class that’s left a major mark on his program.
“I wish they didn’t have to graduate,” he said with a hearty laugh.
The Saints will host a first-round match in the state tournament Tuesday.