BCR Volleyball Player of the Year: Elaina Wamhoff (St. Bede • Jr.)
When an exceptional athlete graduates, the first question is, who will take their place for the next season?
St. Bede volleyball standout Hallie McGuire, the 2018 BCR Volleyball Player of the Year, left such a spot open, and Lady Bruins coach Karrie Damerell undoubtedly asked that question to herself.
She found her answer in junior Elaina Wamhoff, the 2019 BCR Volleyball Player of the Year.
"She's been a solid player for us as a starter for three years," Damerell said. "She's smart, has a lot of volleyball knowledge and can translate it to the court.
"Statistically, she's been a leader for us in many categories in the last two years. She continues to get better and is well respected in the conference by other coaches, recognizing her and her ability to help run our offense."
During the 2019 season, where the Lady Bruins went as far as the championship game of the Class 1A regional in Annawan, Wamhoff led her team in total serving points (213) and serving aces (60).
"I'm really happy with this season and the progress we made throughout, especially with the loss of Macy (Bosnich, due to ACL injury), " Wamhoff said. "I'm happy with how I played this season, and I feel I've made improvements in leadership."
Wamhoff even topped one of her own records.
"She set the single-season assists record for St. Bede Academy this year with 750," Damerell said. "That beats her record of 730 from last year, and her being a junior, I look forward to seeing her top that again next year."
Though she is a bigger threat in the front row, especially alongside teammates Reece Ludford and Claire Morrow, Wamhoff also led the Lady Bruins in digs with 362 for the season.
She was also second in blocks (39.5) and third in kills with 148.
"She continues to improve," Damerell said. "She works hard in the off-season in club, attending camps and at our open gyms.
"It's nice to see an athlete with a love of the sport and the talent to go with it, and it shows in her determination and her spirit."
For all her ability now, Wamhoff said her start in the game of volleyball required some extra effort.
"I started playing junior high volleyball in fifth grade, then I started club in seventh," she said. "I had to work a lot at it in the beginning, and yeah, it was hard to get involved in club. It's a really big commitment throughout the year. I started out as a setter."
Fortunately, help was right there at home from her mother Jennifer (nee Wenzel), a LaMoille graduate who also played volleyball at the college level.
"Yes, she played Division I," Wamhoff said. "She committed to the University of South Carolina, but then transferred and played at the University of Illinois Chicago. She was a middle.
"She inspired me to start playing, and I've loved it ever since. She helps me a lot with my defense, serving, and my mental game."
Wamhoff likes the team aspect of volleyball most, but also the tempo of the sport.
"I love the momentum of the game," she said. "And how it's not so much skill as how bad you want it in that moment."
Asked what she considered the highlights of the season, she was quick to answer.
"Definitely beating Hall," she said with a laugh. "That was the big three-set win (25-18, 18-25, 32-30). Also beating Annawan (25-23, 25-15) in the regional semifinal), that was our best game of the season.
"We finally got in a groove at the end of the season, even though Princeville was a big loss (25-19, 25-21 in the championship match)."
Next year, as a senior, Wamhoff thinks she has a lot to look forward to.
"We're a young team, and we'll only be losing our outside, and I think we have a lot to improve on," she said. "I've been in three regional championships (games), so hopefully next year we'll be in a regional championship game and win it!"
The Elaina Wamhoff file:
• St. Bede junior setter
• BCR Player of the Year
• Unanimous Three Rivers East All-Conference
• Had area-best 667 assists (8.6) and points (188)
• Led St. Bede in digs (317) and aces (53)
• Had 130 kills and 35 blocks