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Meet the 2020 All-Metro boys and girls volleyball teams, led by St. Catherine's Quinn Menger and Thomas Dale's Deklan Wingo
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Meet the 2020 All-Metro boys and girls volleyball teams, led by St. Catherine's Quinn Menger and Thomas Dale's Deklan Wingo

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Two accomplished student-athletes took two very different paths to the same moment, as seniors Quinn Menger of St. Catherine’s and Deklan Wingo of Thomas Dale are the Times-Dispatch All-Metro volleyball players of the year for the 2020 season, which was played in 2021.

Menger becomes the first repeat winner of the girls volleyball award since Catherine Hanners of Douglas Freeman was named player of the year in 2004 and 2005. It’s a sport which she was born into. Literally.

“When I was two days old, my mom placed me in a volleyball cart and pushed me around when she was coaching,” Menger recalled with a laugh, adding that as she grew, she used the cart as a walker as well.

Menger’s mother, Debra, coached at several schools, including James River, where Menger’s father, Clark, now is at the helm. Quinn literally has no memory of life without volleyball, until the pandemic struck.

Menger made the most of the six matches St. Catherine’s played in a shortened season, with no playoffs, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I lived three weeks without the game I love, and you realize that you can’t take any time for granted,” Menger said. “In the fall, I was playing club and high school, and some days I would play five or six hours, and I would come home really tired. But I was grateful for the competition, how my teammates were reacting and how focused they were.”

Her father built a volleyball net outside to help his daughter connect with her passion while the world stood still. As a commit to national powerhouse Penn State, Menger needed to keep her skills sharp in any way possible, but the move also proved to be psychologically important as well.

“Continuing to get reps on the ball and not losing the physical aspect is important, especially when I have a tough, competitive atmosphere ahead of me,” Menger said. “My love for the game is so strong, so without it, it was crippling.”

Now beginning to focus on her future with the Nittany Lions, where she plans to major in biology with plans to become a radiologist, she looks back at the past year thankful to be able to, as a volleyball lifer, simply pay it forward.

“What made me so excited was the young players in Richmond, and St. Catherine’s, who are coming up the line and are definitely going to have their own impact,” Menger said. “That is something I’ll never lose memory of, because I got to see them from when they started. No matter how far I go, I watched them start, and I know they’re going to go far, and it makes me excited.”

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Deklan Wingo first walked onto a competitive volleyball court at the start of ninth grade at Thomas Dale High School. He was raw, and all of 5-foot-4.

“Parker Davis convinced me to try out,” Wingo recalled. “He’s been my best friend since middle school.”

Wingo always will be indebted to Davis, two of a senior core of ten players who led the Knights to the Class 6 state championship,  where they fell to defending champion James River. Despite the defeat, Wingo is thrilled to know a state runner-up banner will hang at his alma mater, another step closer to the Knights’ ultimate goal.

For Wingo, his first goal was to simply learn the game and make the team. He played junior varsity until he was called up for the 2018 postseason as a sophomore, thanks in part to a new competitive advantage he gained of which he had no control.

“The summer between my freshman and sophomore year I grew about six inches,” Wingo said, noting he had resigned himself to being undersized prior to this event. “I never stopped after that.”

By his senior season, Wingo stood 6-4. His road less traveled allowed him to learn  many positions on the court and excel overall. But Joshua Forbes, head coach of Thomas Dale, saw something else.

“He was a quiet, shy, unconfident kid two years ago, and he just won our best teammate award this season,” Forbes said. “Without asking, he took a talented freshman under his wing all season and was just there for him. He not only is a role model for his play, but how he treats people.”

Wingo seeks to continue treating people in the future. A member of the 2021 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American watch list, Wingo’s next stop is Tusculum University in Greeneville, Tennessee, where he looks to major in nursing, a profession which runs in his family.

Whether on the court, or in a hospital, Wingo wisely takes wisdom with him to Tusculum from his time in Chester.

“A team environment can get you anywhere in life,” Wingo said. “With people pushing you and supporting you along the way, it will make you a better leader, and a better person.”

Meet the rest of the girls first team

Rylie Harris

School: Atlee

Year: Senior

Position: Libero

The skinny: The Class 5, Region B Player of the Year, Harris was the glue for a Raiders team which advanced to the Class 5 state semifinals. Head coach Curtis Carpenter said that “without her, there’s no way we are as good.” Harris led Atlee with 203 digs, served 86 percent with 15 aces and 32 assists as she repeats on the first team.

Kaitlyn McNeel

School: Mills Godwin

Year: Junior

Position: Outside hitter

The skinny: A Class 5, Region B first-team honoree and Gatorade State Player of the Year finalist, McNeel had 205 kills, 90 digs, 33 aces and a .346 hitting percentage for the Eagles, who won thirteen straight matches before falling to Atlee in the regional final. McNeel also had first team All-Metro honors in 2019.

Haley Baker

School: New Kent

Year: Junior

Position: Setter

The skinny: Baker had a breakout season for the Trojans. The Class 3, Region A Player of the Year led New Kent’s charge to the Class 3 state final, where it fell to Rustburg. Baker had 383 assists, 130 digs, 39 kills and 38 aces while setting a school record for setting efficiency at .346.

Diana Wesolosky

School: Midlothian

Year: Senior

Position: Outside hitter

The skinny: Wesolosky led the Trojans to a 10-1 record, with their only defeat coming to Atlee in the Class 5, Region B semifinals. Wesolosky had 122 kills, 92 digs, 32 aces and a .287 hitting percentage. The Trojans’ captain will next play for Division II Kentucky Wesleyan in Owensboro.

Brianna Brown

School: Atlee

Year: Senior

Position: Setter

The skinny: A second-team All-Metro honoree in 2019, Brown registered 449 assists, 164 digs, 42 kills and 30 aces with a 95% serving percentage for the Class 5, Region B champions.

Abbey Clayton

School: Monacan

Year: Junior

Position: Outside hitter

The skinny: Clayton helped the Chiefs win their first region championship in school history, capturing the Class 4, Region B title. Clayton led the team in kills with 165, while also contributing 81 digs, 30 aces and 19 blocks.

Elise Williamson

School: St. Catherine's

Year: Junior

Position: Outside hitter

The skinny: A second-team All-Metro honoree in 2019, Williamson averaged 4.21 kills and two digs per set during the Saints’ abbreviated six-match schedule. She is the heir apparent to Menger for on-court leader for the Saints this fall.

Girls honorable mention:

Kara Hammock, Atlee; Natalie Mueller, Powhatan; Grace Ward, Deep Run; Meena Ramadan, Thomas Dale; Jamie Wright, Mills Godwin; Jaylin Slaughter, Prince George; Maddie Carpenter, Douglas Freeman; Blair Bussells, Goochland; Maggie Krausse, Manchester; Isabella Kvetensky, Monacan; Emily Zacharias, Glen Allen

Note: With the variance in schedules and some schools not participating in some seasons due to the pandemic, for all sports this year The Times-Dispatch is selecting one All-Metro team with honorable mentions.

Meet the rest of the boys first team

Mitchell Schuler

School: Manchester

Year: Senior

Position: Outside hitter

The skinny: Schuler earned Class 5, Region B player of the year honors by leading the region in both kills (236) and aces (48). The senior set the Lancers record for most kills in a match with 30.

Cameron Miller

School: Patrick Henry

Year: Senior

Position: Outside hitter

The skinny: The perfect combination of offense and defense for the now five-time defending state champions, the senior registered 145 kills, 127 digs, 21 blocks and nine aces. Miller’s receive rating was 2.22, reaching a high of 2.7 during the Class 4 State Championship against Maggie Walker Governor’s School.

Connor Pinney

School: James River

Year: Senior

Position: Setter

The skinny: Rapids coach Michael Blankenbecler calls Pinney “the best blocking setter I’ve ever coached.” Pinney's contribution to another Class 6 state title included 453 assists, 66 digs, 32 blocks and 13 aces, including a season-high 48 assists against Monacan.

Ian Wagenhauser

School: Deep Run

Year: Junior

Position: Outside hitter

The skinny: Despite an ankle injury that limited him in his first six games, Wagenhauser became the go-to scorer for the Class 5 state champions. Wagenhauser had 134 kills for the Wildcats to go with 53 digs, 39 aces and 21 blocks, with a hitting percentage of .308.

Brooks Cowart

School: Glen Allen

Year: Junior

Position: Outside hitter

The skinny: Considered the best all-around outside in the area by coach Kevin Hoy, Cowart had 105 kills, 104 digs, 19 aces and eight blocks, earning first-team all-region 5B honors. Cowart’s unselfish play helped the Jaguars’ offense cultivate several scoring options en route to the 5B championship.

Wade Every

School: Deep Run

Year: Senior

Position: Setter

The skinny: Every was the “glue that held the team together,” according to Wildcats coach Kevin Pond. The first-team all-region 5B selection had 463 assists, 69 digs, 49 kills, 36 aces and 13 blocks during another championship season for Deep Run.

Justin Sawyer

School: Cosby

Year: Senior

Positions: Multiple

The skinny: A first-team all-region 6A selection for the second time, the senior launched 170 kills, adding 119 digs, 19 aces and 15 blocks for the Titans. Sawyer had four double-doubles and played three different positions for Cosby.

Boys honorable mention:

Hill Sewell, Patrick Henry; Tyler Gray, Deep Run; Ryan Lowry, J.R. Tucker; Connor Hammock, Atlee; Gabe Palmer, Thomas Dale; Cole Grubbs, James River; Drew Barfield, James River; Charlie Unice, Maggie Walker Governor’s School; Isaiah Oriente, Thomas Dale; Caleb Collins, Cosby; Riley Irmen, Glen Allen

Previous girls players of the year

2019: Quinn Menger, St. Catherine's

2018: Megan Kratzer, Hanover

2017: Kylie Tuxford, Hanover

2016: Kelli Nee, Powhatan

2015: Sam Conway, St. Catherine’s

2014: Kendyll Brown, Lee-Davis

2013: Rachel Stanford, Atlee

2012: Hailey Brooks, Atlee

2011: Meg Bowers, Atlee

2010: Chaney LaReau, Deep Run

2009: Maggie Murphy, Mills Godwin

2008: Kristen Carpenter, Hanover

2007: Alyssa Lang, Deep Run

2006: Brittney Grove, Deep Run

2005: Catherine Hanners, Douglas Freeman

2004: Catherine Hanners, Douglas Freeman

2003: Josie Hanners, Douglas Freeman

2002: Amanda Snead, Mills Godwin

Previous boys players of the year

2019: Cade Terrell, Deep Run

2018: Michael Wright, Deep Run

2017: Michael Wright, Deep Run

2016: Kyle Brumbaugh, James River

2015: Nick Spichiger, Midlothian

2014: Craig Nelms, Deep Run

2013: Lawrence Jones, Midlothian

2012: Mitchell Ford, James River

2011: Sam Albus, James River

2010: Darren Kilby, James River

2009: Mark Smith, Clover Hill

2008: Bradley Johnson, Thomas Dale

2007: Michael Blankenbecler, Thomas Dale

2006: Bob Hoke, Patrick Henry

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