Bartholomew a consistent leader

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

STEPHENS CITY — Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy volleyball coach Ellie Wheelock knows if her team needs a big point or if it’s a big match, she can count on senior hitter Carol Bartholomew.

Bartholomew has started for the Patriots all four years, and has delivered big hits when her team needs it.

“Carol’s meant a lot to the team every year that she’s played,” Wheelock said of Bartholomew. “A lot of times for middles [hitters] with her height, I’ve had to train them up, but she just had that natural ability and is just athletic and is just able to do stuff earlier than the others. For the team, she’s a consistent hard hitter. You just really need that on the team.”

Wheelock certainly got plenty of consistency from Bartholomew over the last two weeks. A little over a week ago, Bartholomew led SVCA to the Virginia Association of Christian Athletes North Region title.

In the championship match, Bartholomew had 20 kills for the Patriots (16-4). The match went five sets, and the Patriots had defeated Fresta Valley twice before and Bartholomew admitted she was a little worried.

“I was really nervous about that one,” Bartholomew said. “We won the first two [sets] and then we always get down in the third set. We just lose focus on what we need to do. So I’m glad we came out on top in the fifth set.

“I’m really happy that we won regionals. It means a lot. That was my main thing that I wanted to win, and then anything after that in states was just a plus.”

The VACA state tournament was this past weekend at SVCA, but it didn’t go the way the Patriots were hoping as they fell in straight sets to Roanoke Valley.

Despite the loss, Bartholomew had nine kills in three sets, helping earn her The Northern Virginia Daily’s Female Athlete of the Week for the week of Oct. 19-25.

The 6-foot-1 Bartholomew leads the team and the area in kills with 140, and Wheelock said loves her aggressiveness on the front row.

“She just wants to put the ball down,” Wheelock said. “That was kind of my mentality when I played, too. So it’s nice to see somebody with that mentality of just wanting to put the ball down on the ground and just hitting it hard.”

Bartholomew said she doesn’t play at the club level because she doesn’t have time. She also plays basketball and soccer for the Patriots, but she said that volleyball is her favorite sport.

She said her hitting has come a long way since when she first started playing for the Patriots three years ago.

“When I was a freshman, I couldn’t hit hard,” Bartholomew said. “I mostly just tipped and hit it over, and now I’m getting better at that.”

Wheelock said Bartholomew is a lot smarter now and understands where to hit the ball. Bartholomew has a team-best 44.9 kill percentage. She also has 45 service aces and 19 blocks.

The Patriots suffered a setback the week of regionals, when setter Nikki Taylor suffered an injury, and then was replaced by freshman Annie Runion. Wheelock said the players did a good of working with Runion and helping her out.

The Patriots will play in the National Association of Christian Athletes tournament this week in Dayton, Tennessee. The team is leaving today and they have their first pool play match on Wednesday at 10 a.m. Pool play determines what division each team is placed in for the bracket tournament.

Two years ago the team finished second in its division, but last year they didn’t fare as well. Bartholomew said she wants to finish the season on a high note.

“Whatever division we’re in, I hope we win and play as a team and not get down on each other,” Bartholomew said. “When we start losing, that’s one thing we start to do. So I hope that play well as a team.”

Wheelock said that the team’s mentality will play a big part in how successful they are.

“I really hope that we do well. I think we have a chance,” Wheelock said. “It all depends on the girls’ mental toughness. First up is our pool play. I have to remind them this is just for seeding, if we lose all the games it doesn’t mean anything, once we get to the brackets Our heads get in our way sometimes — that’s the big key.”

Bartholomew said it’s hard knowing that this is her last week of high school volleyball, but it also motivates her.

“I’m really sad. I’m really excited for basketball season, too, so that’s something to look forward to,” Bartholomew said. “I’m not just ending my whole sports career in high school, but it’s still really sad because volleyball is my favorite sport.

“This is like the last chance you have to get awards and win a championship, like win the national championship. So it makes you want to play harder and give everything you have to give because there’s nothing after it.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com