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Prep volleyball: Bandak makes her mark at Catholic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The girls athletic programs at Charleston Catholic have had great success, from state championship teams to individual state champions, as well as All-State players and some Player of the Year honorees.

Naming all of them would be a task, but when it comes to determining the next one, the job gets considerably easier.

She is Catherine Bandak.

On Tuesday night, the sophomore led Charleston Catholic to three easy victories in a volleyball quad match at the school's athletic center on Hillcrest Drive.

The Irish (14-1-1) defeated Greater Beckley Christian 25-5, 25-7, Hurricane 15-18, 25-7, and Poca 25-7 and 25-9.

"She's our offense," second-year Irish Coach Lindsay Kuncher said. "And she plays all the way around for us because she can serve, she can pass, and she's our back-up setter."

The 5-foot-11 Bandak started on last year's State Tournament team and has taken over the middle hitter role this season from Makenzie Polen, who graduated.

"She's our go-to girl," Kuncher said. "She's naturally athletic, quick and reads so well and she can jump."

Although the 15-year-old has completed only one full year of high school she already has competed in three state tournaments and has a team and individual state championship to her credit.

Besides playing a major role on the volleyball team's success last year it was Bandak's steady improvement that helped Catholic turn a 3-8 start in basketball into a 13-11 finish and a State Tournament appearance. She finished the season as the squad's second-leading scorer and top rebounder.

Then, one of her friends on the team convinced her to tryout for the tennis team.

She and that teammate, Anna Whelan, won a doubles championship to help the Irish win the Class AA-A team crown.

All of that together makes for a very busy schedule for the straight-A student.

"It's really not too bad because I enjoy all of the sports I do," Bandak said. "And my family is very supportive."

Older brothers Zack, 23, and Samer, 19, along with her father, helped her along.

"They instilled in me, at a very early age, to be competitive," Bandak said. "I started basketball in the third grade."

Volleyball came in the sixth grade and tennis last year.

In the days leading up to the state tennis tournament she and her brothers worked out daily at the Kanawha City courts.

While the males in the family provided the competitive push, her mother provided plenty of moral support.

"She's really wonderful," said Bandak, whose mother recently began taking tennis lessons. "No matter what, she encourages me.

"It is fun when we all get together on the weekends and play tennis, or basketball, or even volleyball."

The encouragement, however, never translates into pressure.

"I feel that as long as I try my best it is good enough," Bandak said.

That attitude explains why there always seems to be a smile on her face.

"She is the type of girl who is always early for practice, focused, never puts anybody down, and is always finding something positive to say," Kuncher said. "The only bad thing is she doesn't give herself enough credit."

Bandak admits she gets down on herself.

"Of course I do," she said. "I get down but when you do get down you have to remember there is so much more to accomplish so why dwell on the past".

Basketball is easily her favorite sport and she admits to thinking about concentrating on it exclusively.

"I've thought about it a lot," Bandak said. "I just can't do it."

Following a brief pause and a thoughtful look to the ceiling, she said: "yet."


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