For the long haul
It was two seasons ago when Chrysten Cotney and Julia Hall were just a couple of freshman on a battle-hardened Forest Lake Christian girls basketball squad.
Cotney, who had been set to enroll at Nevada Union before she transferred into the FLC system, caught the eye of first-year head coach Rob Hodges, with her lightning-quick speed and nose for the basket, right away.
“Coming here from a bigger school, I had something to prove, I think I wanted to prove to myself that I made the right decision,” Cotney said. “So, when I went out on the court, we were going to win, no matter what.”
Hall, a longtime member of the FLC family, began the 2000-01 season on the junior varsity, but was called up to study under Lady Falcon standouts Ashley Bello and Braeden Huusfeldt in the ways of post play when the Central Valley Christian League season began in January.
“The older girls accepted me even though I was a freshman. They were all very encouraging and I thought if I were ever a captain, I wanted to be just like them,” Hall said.
As that season wore on, the pair had a front-row seat to school history.
They were there when FLC snapped Sacramento Waldorf’s 109-game league winning streak.
The pair was also on the court when the Lady Falcons topped Woodland Christian in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Semifinals to advance to the program’s first ever finals appearance, and with that, a NorCal State Championship berth.
FLC fell to perennial power Ripon Christian in the D-5 section finals at Arco Arena, then to Redwood Christian in the first round of the NorCals.
“Playing in Arco was like heaven for me. But it was good and bad. It was good because we played pretty well in the first half, but we came out in the second and (let it get away from us). It was really heartbreaking to lose that one,” Cotney said.
The Lady Falcons rebounded the next season, first winning the CVCL, then earning a second straight trip to the section semis before falling to Modesto Christian.
“Last year was really disappointing. I thought we had enough ability and heart to go farther than we did. Our goal for this year was to beat Modesto, get back to Arco, and go even further that we did (in 2001),” Hall said.
FLC lost more than just a game, as its core of five seniors – Huusfeldt, Jessica Miller, Katie Boddorf, Jaime Laughlin and Katelyn Gilfillan – soon were off to college.
As the players with the most varsity experience, it was going to be on the shoulders of the juniors-to-be to lead the way back to Arco and beyond.
“Playoff-wise, we have very little experience. Chrysten and Julia got three games last year, and they were part of our Arco run,” Hodges said. “Their biggest challenge is to show our younger players what playoff basketball (at the high school level) is all about.”
“Chrysten and I were talking after the season ended last year about how we were going to be team captains this year. So we started preparing early,” Hall said.
Hall took a dual approach to her new role.
“I spiritually searched myself to see if I ready to lead these girls,” she said. “I also attended some leadership conferences, where I learned it’s not necessarily what your say, it’s what you do.”
Cotney met with Boddorf – last season’s spiritual leader – over the summer to talk about what it takes to motivate and inspire both on and off the court.
So far, so good.
FLC has won 28 straight league games and with its 9-0 mark this season, is well on its way toward another CVCL crown.
“They have both stepped into their roles as team captains very well,” Hodges said. “Chrysten has developed into more of a true point guard. She did a lot of scoring for us her freshman year, our offense has changed, and we’ve got more kids who can score.”
“She has the mind-set of a point guard. She’s a great passer and she looks to set other players up before she looks for her shot,” Hall said. “And she’s a born leader. The way we looked up to Ashley (Bello), Katelyn (Gilfilllan) and Braeden (Huusfeldt), is the same way the younger girls look up to her.”
Hall, at 6-foot-1, has also become a force for FLC.
“She’s a lot tougher than she looks,” Hodges said. “While most of the girls on the team shy away from banging with (6-foot, 10-inch) Lindsay Hayward down low in practice, she welcomes it. I know I sure wouldn’t want to.”
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