By Noah Rubin
It can take players years of practice to be able to play at the level of juniors Ella Beyer, Jordan White and sophomore Molly Kate Patten.
However, these girls have the Lambert volleyball team focused on winning a state championship, despite being relatively new at the sport.
Ella Beyer grew up swimming for Swim Atlanta before she made the switch to volleyball.
“I started swimming when I was seven,” Beyer said. “I was really competitive about it for seven years. Heading into eighth grade, I got a little burnt out. That’s when I transferred to volleyball. My mom actually put me into it to get a sense of rejection, because I had never touched a volleyball. She sent me into feeder team tryouts thinking, ‘She’s not going to make it.’ So that was funny. Now here we are.”
Jordan White played soccer before she started playing volleyball. She’s been playing only about five years, but that’s long enough for her to have the most experience of the three.
“I played soccer when I was six until I turned 11,” White said. “That’s when I started transitioning into volleyball. I wasn’t super serious. I played for my local church team, and we were really good. I was a goalie because I’ve always been pretty tall, and I also was really fast so I was able to get to balls quickly. I think figuring out how tall I was going to grow set the bar for me going into volleyball, because I’ve always loved watching it, especially because my mom was really into it. They told me I should start playing really young because I could grow up to be something really good.”
Patten played tennis for the majority of her life before she transitioned over to volleyball just a few years ago.
“I played tennis for 10 years,” Patten said. “I started playing volleyball because I wanted to play a team sport. Tennis and volleyball are sister sports. They have the same footwork and swings. I got into it through my mom as well.”
All three mentioned that their favorite part of their previous sport was winning and competing at a high level. That has definitely carried over into volleyball.
Lambert has an 18-6 record so far this season, but the Longhorns' excellent record isn’t enough for these athletes.
They have much bigger goals.
“State championship,” Beyer said. “Winning region first. We had an Oglethorpe team volleyball camp over the summer, and they asked us the same question. We made a vision board with all of our goals on it, and it was state championship at the top. Then we made our goals to get there, which is obviously ball control, practicing well, keeping each other accountable. It’s our year.”
All three feel like they’ve grown a lot so far this season. They’ve been forced to step up and lead after senior Taylor Nelson went down with an injury. Nelson is definitely a player the team has missed.
“We thought it would’ve been easier than it has been [to adjust],” Beyer admitted. “Over our past two seasons, Lambert has been known for having 13 lineups. I think we had 23 last year. It’s always been easy to pop someone in. We hit a bump in the road the tournament after Taylor went out. We were on fire the last couple games that day. We went to the next tournament, and it was a roller coaster. It took us by surprise a little bit, but we bounced back and our last game was pretty good. We’ve really grown as a team. As much as it sucks that Taylor went down, I think it gave all of us a chance to come together.”
White shared that she’s had plenty of opportunity to grow during Taylor’s absence and is excited for how it will benefit her.
“Being a middle, you would think that [Taylor being out] wouldn’t affect me as much because she plays a different position than me,” White acknowledged. “It’s definitely forced me to step up a lot more. Being able to run different plays, running out of system because without that key outside hitter, the middles have definitely gotten a lot more sets and a lot more play and involvement in the game. I think it’s really going to help me grow as a player.”
Another player that’s stepped up for Lambert is junior Claire Jenkins.
“This year we have a new setter, Claire Jenkins,” Patten said. “She just runs all of us, especially the middles. We have to step up, especially with Taylor out, and learn our role on the court. It’s been really good.”
One thing they’ve worked on this season that’s helped them a lot is their passing.
“We’ve definitely passed, and passed, and done some more passing,” Patten joked. “It’s definitely working.”
It’s something they’ve worked on a lot that should be a big help for them as they head into area play.
“Lots of ball control,” Beyer said. “We always start off with an hour of passing. Lots of ball control drills, working together on our seams and back row, making sure no balls drop without any effort. Or else we do line-to-line burpees, which are always super fun. That’s about it. Coach [Missey] Hall does a really good job of keeping things consistent and making sure that we build up from the basics.”
Hall has been coaching these three since they started playing. She noticed early on while they were playing with the Lambert feeder team that all three could be difference-makers for the Longhorns in the near future.
“You could see that they had the potential to be varsity players pretty quickly,” Hall said. “All three of them have played varsity since their freshman year, and all three of them have made a big impact from the minute they stepped foot on the floor. That’s been a really special thing for all three of them.”
They’re all excited about what this season could have in store for them, especially when Nelson returns. Their continued growth while she’s gone will pay dividends for them as the season progresses.
“We definitely all learned what we need to do,” Patten said. “I think when she comes back it’ll make us stronger. We all know our role on this team. Now we’ve stepped up, and we’re all leaders.”
For Lambert, it’ll be exciting to see how their season plays out, especially to see how far the Longhorns can go in the playoffs.
They’ve already been very clear about their goals. They believe it’s their year. With Beyer, White, and Patten leading the way, Lambert is in good shape for a deep run.