Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — With Payton McBee on its roster, Chillicothe’s volleyball program has never lost a conference title.
That’s not a coincidence, and the senior certainly isn’t looking to snap that streak anytime soon.
McBee, who coach Andrew Vitatoe says will be one of the team’s leaders this fall, is one of the Cavaliers’ four returning varsity players. With experience under her belt, she’s well aware that her team’s recent success in league play hasn’t been a fluke.
She also knows what it takes to reach the top again.
“Having never lost a conference title is pretty awesome. But with anything rewarding, there is a lot of hard work to be put in,” McBee said. “My team puts in a lot of time at practice working on our skills so that we can win as many games as possible.”
Last season, Chillicothe was 13-10 overall with a 9-1 mark in the Frontier Athletic Conference. That finish came after two years where the Cavs finished 15-9 and 18-6.
As a defensive specialist last fall, McBee posted the best numbers of her career, totaling 37 service aces, 240 digs and 271 serve receptions. Those marks bettered her 26 aces, 148 digs and 90 serve receptions as a sophomore.
But numbers don’t particularly matter to McBee.
“The biggest goal I have is to put 100 percent effort into every practice and every game, and to be a team leader, on and off the court,” McBee said. “I hope to lead my team to another conference title.”
McBee’s love for volleyball started at a young age. But after she fell in love with the game, she was forced to part with it for a certain period of time.
When you know what it’s like to have something you’re passionate about stripped from you, you find the true value in it. McBee found that just before her varsity career took flight.
“I have many favorite volleyball moments, many of them involving me being silly or how I always hide in the volleyball closet and eat animal crackers without [Chillicothe] coach [Andrew Vitatoe] knowing,” McBee said, laughing. “But if I had to pick one, it would be being able to play again for the first time freshman year after having hip surgery. Having to take off a whole year from volleyball, I couldn’t wait to get back on the court and play with my team that year.”
As you can infer, McBee has a mix of talent plus intangibles. While she holds her own when it comes to pure ability, she also has something coaches can’t teach: the ability to vocally lead.
“I have a loud mouth,” McBee said, laughing. “So my best on-court trait would have to be communication. I always tell my hitters the best spots to hit, how many blockers they have up, and how great they did afterwards.”
Leading becomes easier when you build relationships with teammates off the court. McBee has made sure to do that throughout her career.
“We are a very close team. There is not one person I don’t talk to outside of school,” McBee said. “One of my favorite things we do together is, after home games, we go to coach’s house for dinner. I steal all of his toaster strudels.”
Vitatoe may be missing pantry items now. But he can replace those. After this year, he’ll certainly miss having an on-court coach in McBee. That feeling goes both ways.
“It’s fun to play for [Vitatoe]. He is very passionate about the sport. He genuinely cares about his players and wants us to succeed,” McBee said. “He gives 100 percent and is always eager to learn more and improve himself as a coach. He also wants us to have a great time while playing and makes sure that happens.”
McBee and her teammates will start their quest for a fifth straight conference title on Aug. 17 with a tri-match at Marysville High School.
“Attitude determines everything,” McBee said. “We need to maintain a positive attitude, communicate and work together in order to remain at the top of the league.”