SUFFOLK, Va. - Varsity volleyball has come full circle for Nansemond-Suffolk Academy's Ryle Bono.
"I felt like a baby when I first started, and now I'm the only senior," Bono explained. "I'm just now realizing how much influence this program has had over me."
Bono, the standout libero (back row defensive specialist) for the Saints program - a perennial power in at the VISAA (Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association) level, has been playing on NSA's varsity team since she was an eighth grader.
"Not a whole lot of 8th graders even want to try and be on varsity, because not a lot are ready," admitted NSA volleyball coach Robyn Ross. "It speaks a lot to Rylee and her mental capabilities to be able to be in the state championship match as an eighth grader. She's had some great mentors along the way to help shape her and form her - including her sister who was a senior during her first varsity season."
Five years later, Bono is now the one mentoring the younger girls on the team.
"We all have really special bonds with each other," Bono revealed during an interview with News 3 Sports Director Adam Winkler.
"She's teaching the young ones what it means to be in this program, and what it means to be a part of this family," Coach Ross added. "She leads by example. Rylee is one of the hardest working kids I've ever had the opportunity to coach."
Being able to finish her varsity career with the same type of leadership and mentoring with which she started is not the only full circle experience on Bono's volleyball resume. Circles in the form of zeroes attached to some very big, very round numbers also have a presence.
Rylee, who has been voted all-state multiple times, has more than 1,300 digs and 200 aces in her varsity career. Last week, she reached another milestone when she recorded her 100th career victory in a win vs. Cape Henry Collegiate. Bono is believed to be the only player in NSA volleyball history to achieve 100 career match wins.
"It's hard for me to see it as a personal accomplishment, because I've always been on amazing teams with girls who are amazing athletes and work so hard," Bono said humbly. "I realize it's a big deal, but it's more of a team and coaching accomplishment."
"She's had a lot on her shoulders for the last four years, and we are able to do what we do and win the way we do because of kids like her," Coach Ross said of Rylee.
As Rylee Bono's full circle moment allows her to realize how much influence the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy volleyball program has had on her, others are celebrating the impact she's had on the program.
"She's a great kid, and the world should all know it," Ross added.