When Chester residents Brenda and Bryan Vay met on the first day of classes at the University of Virginia, it may have been love at first sight.
Thirty years later, they’re still happily married and a little over a year away from having an empty nest. What they couldn’t have known back then is that their eventual offspring, Hunter and Meredith, would both develop into Division I athletes.
“I was more academic,” Bryan Vay said. “My wife played basketball at Monacan and swam.”
Their youngest, Thomas Dale baseball standout Hunter Vay, made headlines recently as he verbally committed to Virginia Commonwealth University.
“The coaching staff at VCU is unbelievable and I love that they play at The Diamond,” Hunter Vay said. “The campus is awesome.”
VCU had a season to remember in 2016, notching 38 victories before falling in the Atlantic 10 semifinals to St. Joseph’s.
Vay entertained three other offers from a trio of schools from the Big South; Gardner-Webb, Radford, and Longwood.
Of everything Vay has accomplished and will accomplish next season in his career as a Knights player, he will always be remembered for his home run in the 2015 Conference 3 semifinal game to sink top-seeded James River 1-0. The bases-empty shot backed a herculean pitching effort by teammate Nathan Eaton, who played at VMI this past year.
This season, on a younger team, Vay took the reins of a leader.
“He’s the best defensive catcher I’ve seen [in my 10 years here],” said Thomas Dale coach Chris Marshall. “He called pitches this year and did a great job with a young pitching staff. Offensively, he’s still a work in progress.”
That “work in progress” was 17 for 57 at the plate (.395 batting average). The junior had five extra-base hits (three doubles two triples) and drove in 11 runs.
“He needs to change his approach at the plate,” Marshall said. “Square the ball up instead of trying to lift the ball.”
Vay will become the second player from Thomas Dale in recent times to play at VCU, joining Bill Cullen, who graduated as a Rams standout in 2014. Before ascending to the college ranks, he’ll lead a pitching staff headlined by Adam Brooks.
“He knows the game of baseball better than any other guy I’ve played with,” Brooks said. “He’s one of the only guys that can stay focused from the beginning to the end of each game.”
While you’d expect Hunter to come by land, Meredith would most certainly come by sea.
The swimmer, who owns a number of records at Poseidon Swimming, earned another notch on her athletic belt when she qualified for the Olympic Trials last summer in San Antonio. The rising junior qualified in the 50 meter freestyle with a time of 26.07 seconds.
After a bout with mononucleosis, Meredith is ready to compete in Omaha, Neb., June 23 through July 2.
“The worst part [of the illness] has been the mental aspect of it,” she said. “I didn’t take a break like I should have done in the fall, and I felt it at the SECs. Since then [I’ve taken] couple weeks off to rest and I’ve been getting stronger and faster every day.”
Another thing that the children of two UVA grads did manage to acquire was an academic prowess. Hunter boasts a 3.9 GPA through his junior year at Thomas Dale, while Meredith has earned a spot on the prestigious President’s List at South Carolina, earning a 4.0 GPA in each of her first four college semesters.
One thing is for certain, over the next few years the Vay family will do a lot of traveling. Whether it’s up Interstate 95 to catch Hunter at The Diamond or down to see Meredith compete in wherever she is, they’ll be doing it together.
As a family.