Spartans' Virtue Comes of Age Return to State Brings Senior Setter Full Circle
Byline: Dave Miller
Katie Virtue has come a long way from not knowing what a sideout was.
Back in 1991, she was just a fifth-grader tagging along with her family watching the St. Francis volleyball team win the state championship at Redbird Arena in Normal.
The experience piqued her interest in the sport.
"I wasn't really into volleyball then because I didn't start until seventh grade," Virtue said. "Still I remember watching and thinking it was so cool. That's when I was learning. You know how they announce everything like, 'Sideout, Spartans' or whatever. I had to ask my mom what a sideout was. I remember wondering, 'Why does he keep saying that?' "
Now Virtue returns wiser to Redbird Arena. The Ohio State-bound senior setter supreme leads St. Francis in its attempt to repeat as Class A state champs this weekend. The Spartans play Red Bud in the quarterfinals at 9:30 a.m. Friday. The championship match is slated for 6:15 p.m. Saturday.
Virtue is the latest in a line of setters who have set St. Francis to a state championship - Julie Bremner in 1988, Sara Skyrd in '91 and '92, and Shannon Melka in '97. Virtue and Melka set together in a 6-2 offense during last season's title run. Melka graduated and currently sets for Michigan , and junior setter Gemma Greer is now teaming with Virtue.
The beat goes on.
Virtue is not only carrying on the volleyball tradition at St. Francis, but also her family's tradition at the Wheaton school with an enrollment of 551.
Her parents, Pat and Carol, are 1969 St. Francis alums and make their home in St. Charles. They first started dating as sophomores at the school. Virtue's sister, Shannn, 23, and brother, Pat, 19, were Spartans and her sophomore sister, Erin, also a setter, was just pulled up to varsity for the Downstate trip just as Katie was three years ago. Her brother Dan, 13, will attend St. Francis, too.
Virtue is making the most of her time at St. Francis. She is a member of the Executive Board of Student Council, which planned Homecoming, Students Against Destructive Decisions, the International Club, Peer Ministry and the National Honor Society. …