Seeing Fenwick’s Annie Ryan hug Nazareth’s Maeve Grimes before a volleyball match may seem a bit odd.
There’s a good reason why the talented 5-9 juniors are happy to see each other, however.
Ryan and Grimes are teammates with 1st Alliance Volleyball Club/Lyons Jrs., as well as beach volleyball partners.
“It’s definitely different seeing her on the other side of the court,” Ryan said. “I’m so used to her being on the same side as me and ready to set me. It’s different, but it’s exciting. I love being able to see her and play against her. We’re really close. We’re competitive, but it’s a fun sort of competitive. When she gets a good hit, I’m excited for her rather than being upset at losing a point.”
Grimes and Ryan have played beach volleyball together the past two summers. Grimes was introduced to beach volleyball by her 10-year-old sister Jillian, who played for fun.
“I watched her play and talked to Annie about it and she was willing to do it with me,” Grimes said.
The two quickly found success in their new endeavor.
The duo captured the 16-under championship, defeating club teammates Emma Decker and Meg Kern in the final, at the North Avenue Beach Ball AAU Invitational July 5 in Chicago. They earned a bid to the West Coast Junior Olympics in Hermosa Beach, Calif., but skipped the tournament when Grimes suffered an injury.
“We were really excited,” Grimes said. “We were thinking we were just doing it for fun and we didn’t know how good we would be. She’s one of my best friends and we work well together.”
Ryan believes the secret to success in beach volleyball is good chemistry.
“The main difference is it’s just you and your partner out there,” Ryan said. “You have to have a good relationship with your partner and that is a strong point with Maeve and I. She’s a great teammate and is easy to work with. She’s always encouraging.”
During the high school season, Ryan, of Hinsdale, is an outside hitter and Westchester resident Grimes is a setter.
Ryan has been best friends with Fenwick teammate Annie Trucco since they were 6 and Trucco heaps praise on Ryan’s skill on the court and sand.
“Annie is one of the best players I’ve ever played with in every aspect of the game,” Trucco said. “She amazes me all the time with the plays she makes. She’s so athletic and she puts the ball down with everything she’s got.
“I respect anyone that can play beach volleyball because it’s a really hard thing to do. It’s impressive that she can carry her court volleyball skills to the sand.”
Ryan and Grimes agree that playing beach volleyball during the offseason benefits their indoor game.
“It definitely helps physically,” Ryan said. “It’s hard running and jumping in sand. I think it transfers over to indoors. You’re in much better shape because you’re covering a lot more of the court in sand volleyball, so you’re quicker on your feet indoors.”
Because their high school teams play in the same conference, Ryan and Grimes square off multiple times outside of the beach season. Nazareth and Fenwick faced each other three times this fall and the Roadrunners swept the series, including twice in the East Suburban Catholic.
“It’s always a lot of fun going against her,” Grimes said. “It brings out the competitiveness in both of us, but in a good way. We smile at each other across the net. There are no hard feelings whoever wins.”