Volleyball team looks to improve upon strong season

Westminster Volleyball’s tradition of excellence has been well documented, with each new season adding to the already impressive collection of region titles and state championships amassed throughout the program’s existence. Despite a loss at the hands of Pace, a region rival, in the GHSA AAA state championship, the Wildcats enjoyed yet another strong season that culminated in an impressive 34-11 record highlighted by big wins over tough competition, cementing their status as one of Georgia’s premier volleyball programs. With another year to grow and improve under the direction of newly hired head coach Catherine Monroe, the Cats look to build upon the successes and failures of this past season in hopes of ultimately capturing a state championship.
One contributing factor to the Wildcat’s strong season was Coach Monroe, whose first year on the job proved to be wildly successful. As a former JV head coach, Monroe was familiar with the Westminster Volleyball program, but was stepping into a new role as the Varsity head coach. Luckily, her vast experience in the sport eased the transition, as she played competitive club volleyball before and after her college playing days in Texas, and her coaching resumé boasts stops as a head coach at school and club volleyball programs in Texas and in the Netherlands, where she even picked up few international championships before returning stateside.
Coming into the season, Monroe’s primary focus was to firmly establish the program’s identity within her first year as the Varsity head coach.
“My biggest goal was to build relationships and trust,” said Coach Monroe. “Since it was an entirely new coaching staff with a lot of new players, relationship building was key.”
Unsurprisingly, this ground-up approach paid off big dividends on court, as the Volleycats finished with one of the best Westminster volleyball records in quite some time. Beyond this on-court success, the team also grew off the court, thanks to new initiatives that aimed to give the players experiences outside of the gym.
“The team has a great time volunteering at Agape and taking yoga classes,” said Coach Monroe. “The experiences were rewarding and great for team bonding.”
However, the Cats did face some adversity throughout the season. Specifically, the team had to rally past a tough first half in when they faced difficult opponents early on while dealing with a number of injuries to key contributors.
“We had a lot of injuries and sore shoulders this season,” said Sophomore Elena Karas. “It was hard to get in practices where everyone was playing at 100%.”
The team was able to turn their season around, reeling off wins over rivals Pace and Blessed Trinity before running the table at the Blessed Trinity Serve for the Cure Tournament, in which the Cats went undefeated before falling to a strong Columbus team in the championship. Strong performance on court elevated the Volleycats to a top 15 ranking in the state of Georgia. Their rapid growth and success on the court stemmed from the team’s resilience and bond in the face of adversity.
“Everyone got really close as the season progressed, and I think that bond reflected in our play because we started to play looser and perform up to our potential,” said sophomore Mary Emily Morgan. “We had a lot of confidence and believed that we could beat any team that we faced.”
The Wildcats carried this momentum into the playoffs, where they breezed through the first four rounds, handily defeating Windsor Forest, Savannah Arts Academy, Calhoun, and GAC en route to the state championship, where they faced Pace Academy for the third consecutive season. Though the Cats didn’t walk away with championship rings, eventually falling 3-1 to Pace in a back and forth affair, the team sees the loss as a learning experience.
“Overall, the season went really well, but obviously we didn’t finish with the ideal outcome of winning state,” said Karas. “It will serve as motivation for our team to win state and improve next year.”
This goal seems to be well within reach, despite the losses of key seniors to graduation. Hopefully, new additions to the team and growth from past members will be enough to replace the on-court production of standout Seniors Emily Hansen, Sasha Fuson, Isabel Sumardi, Ansley McNeel, and Maggie McSwain, a Washington and Lee commit and an all-region and all-state player.
“We will have a lot of holes to fill once the seniors leave,” said Morgan. “They were our teams leaders as well as strong players so people will have to step up and fill those holes.”
However, the Wildcats bring back a strong core of rising Juniors and Seniors who will look to build upon this past season, highlighted by second team all-region members Elena Karas, Chloe Emch, and Betsy Moore and first team all-region honoree Mary Emily Morgan. Emch and Morgan also made the all-state team, with Morgan being named the region MVP and 3A state player of the year. In addition, Westminster will retain the majority of their bench players, who contributed valuable minutes throughout the season, and have a number of talented athletes waiting on the wings, as the rising Freshmen and Sophomore classes will add a number of players to next year’s roster.
“We had a great season this year but there is always room for improvement,” said Karas. “I’m looking forward to developing even stronger connections between players on and off the court and hoping to win the majority of our games and beat the teams that we lost to this year.”
With a deep well of talent and another year under the guidance of Coach Monroe, the Cats are poised to come back even stronger next season. Keep an eye out for the Volleycats as they attempt to capture the elusive 3A state championship.