OUTPOURING OF LOVE: Forest Lake Christian community lends helping hand to Paradise Adventist Academy during time of need | TheUnion.com

OUTPOURING OF LOVE: Forest Lake Christian community lends helping hand to Paradise Adventist Academy during time of need

Even when the stakes are at their highest, sports are often about far more than what happens between the lines.

That was never more evident than what took place at Forest Lake Christian on Saturday night.

Coping with the ongoing devastation and tragedy from the Camp Fire, the Paradise Adventist Academy volleyball team courageously made their way to Forest Lake Christian to face the Lady Falcons in the CIF NorCal Division VI semifinals.

The Lady Falcons, and the Forest Lake Christian community as a whole, welcomed their playoff opponent the only way they know how, with love, support and a helping hand.

The Cougars from Paradise Adventist arrived to Forest Lake Christian to find brand new custom jerseys, shorts, knee pads and socks waiting for them as well as truck loads of donated clothes and more than $16,000 in cash and gift cards. All of which was pulled together by the Forest Lake Christian community in less than 24 hours.

“To have our community show up in such a huge way, I’m still blown away by it,” FLC head coach Travis Smith said. “I’ve never seen that many people in our gym, and there were people there who had never watched a volleyball game in their life, but they came to support what we were doing.”

After the game, Paradise Adventist coach Jason Eyer addressed the standing-room only crowd to express his gratitude.

“I’ve never been so overwhelmed by so many things I would have never thought possible, and this is one of the most amazing things I could ever have thought would happen,” he said. “Your community is awesome and we are forever grateful.”

Forest Lake Christian athletic director LaRon Gordon was instrumental in coordinating the event, but was quick to credit the FLC administration and community as a whole for pulling it all together.

“It was truly an amazing scene, and on top of that the volleyball match was amazing too,” Gordon said. “To have two great teams going at it the way that they did. It’s hard to describe how electric it was. I’ve been in sports for 18 years and to be in an atmosphere like that, I can’t really compare it to anything else I’ve been a part of.”

Gordon said the outpouring of support was overwhelming, noting donations poured in all day long and the gym was packed 45 minutes before the game even started.

“The Forest Lake community is brand new to me, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “But, after that night and after getting to know people in that community and at the school, the outpouring of love and support shown has been truly overwhelming.”

After the game, won by Forest Lake in four sets, tears flowed and new friendships were forged as the two teams posed for photos and enjoyed each other’s company.

“That’s just who my girls are and that’s just what Forest Lake Christian is,” Smith said. “It’s a community coming together to share love.”

Smith said Saturday night’s experience is one his players will remember for the rest of their lives.

“These girls can look back on that and they can put their chin up and say ‘we had a small part to play in a really difficult time and we were able to step up,’” he said. “This is a memory they will never forget.”

The No. 2 seed Lady Falcons won 25-16, 18-25, 25-18, 25-13, and advance to today’s championship bout against No. 1 Stone Ridge Christian (Merced).

The Lady Falcons got strong efforts from Lily Sween (15 kills, 4 blocks), Raegan Tanon (19 digs, 4 aces), Sonja Sween (5 blocks, 5 kills), Bella O’Neill (14 assists, 4 blocks), Taylor Dunn (13 digs, 5 kills) and Mackenzie Wickstrom (13 assists). The Lady Cougars were led by seniors Sarah Goymer (13 kills, 21 digs, 3 blocks) and Quincy Carter (14 kills, 14 digs).

“There were long rallies and both sides were fighting for every single point,” Smith said. “The final score was not indicative of the level of competition that was going on.”

However it may shake out in tonight’s title bout, Smith said FLC’s season has already been a success.

“No matter what happens (in the championship game), I know that that was what our season was all about,” Smith said. “It was literally one of the highlights of my life. You can take something like a NorCal final four game, which is an accomplishment in of itself, and turn that into an outpouring of love for the other team. Those are the makings of a really good movie.”

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.

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