PREP VOLLEYBALL: Discipline, team chemistry key to Forest Lake Christian’s success this season
The Forest Lake Christian volleyball team hosted Delta Tuesday night and things went pretty much as expected. The Lady Falcons crushed their Central Valley California League foe in three sets, 25-6, 25-11, 25-4.
Forest Lake Christian’s senior setter Emily O’Niell was a force at the service line with several aces and she also did a great job of setting up the offense as Alysse Moore, Aileen Makovey, Faith Menary, Courtney John and others were able slam down kills all match long.
The win improved the Lady Falcons to 12-5 overall and 5-1 in league play. For FLC it was just another step on the path to their goal of winning a Sac-Joaquin Section championship this season.
“A championship is our expectation and we’re not going to settle for anything less than that,” said head coach Kyler Malarae, now in his second season at the helm of the Lady Falcons’ volleyball program.
Several FLC players echoed the goals set forth by Malarae.
“We’ve reached the semifinals the past two seasons, so the goal is to finally win sections,” said O’Neill, who added the key to reaching a section title game is consistency.
“We definitely need to stay consistent,” she said. “We tend to go high and low, and to reach our goals we need to stay consistent.”
Moore, a senior outside hitter, added, “I think we can go really far. I’m trying to do whatever I can to help us reach that goal.”
Moore said the team’s tight bond and chemistry is their biggest strength.
“We’ve really come together as a family,” she said. “We’ve grown together, and we play really well together.”
In addition to their on-court chemistry, the Lady Falcons are also deep in talent, said Makovey, a senior outside hitter.
“We have a really good starting lineup, and our bench is really good,” Makovey said. “We definitely have the potential to make sections and we have the drive as well.”
Malarae said he is confident his team has what it takes to be a title contender, and his players have “bought in” as well.
“They’ve set their expectations, they’ve bought in and now the discipline is flowing,” he said. “(Buy-in) is huge. It’s pivotal. It’s the only thing that will get you there — buying in.”
The Lady Falcons lost in the Sac-Joaquin Section D-VI semifinals a year ago, losing to league foe and reigning CVCL champion Woodland Christian. The difference this year, in Malarae’s mind, is his team is tougher mentally and far more disciplined.
“We’re becoming a smarter team, and discipline has been our theme this season,” he said.
Leading the Lady Falcons on the court have been senior captains O’Neill, Moore and Makovey.
“We have three amazing leaders and they all have a different approach,” said Malarae.
Junior libero Britteny Dunn and freshmen middle hitter Menary have also played major roles in FLC’s success so far.
Dunn said having a former libero as a coach does come with some added pressure, but it’s welcomed.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” she said. “(Malarae) sets the expectations high. But, going into games I always push myself to meet those expectations.”
Malarae was a libero for the Nevada Union boys varsity volleyball team from 2011-12. While at Nevada Union, Malarae and the Miners were a regular contender for the section title, but never was able to claim one.
As a coach, Malarae said the desire to win a section title is still there, but the motivation is different.
“It’s a totally different drive,” he said. “I wanted it so bad as a player and we didn’t get it. What is so cool and unique about now coming at it as a coach is I want it so bad still, but I want it for them.”
One of FLC’s biggest differences from this year’s team from last has been the addition of a highly talented freshmen.
Menary, the lone freshmen on a team filled with juniors and seniors, has been a welcomed addition to the squad and helped solidify the middle hitter position for the Lady Falcons.
“After the first few weeks (Menary) had earned the respect of every player on this team,” said Malarae. “Not only for her skill, which is outright incredible, but for her mental game. Being so young, she is able to stay confident and she’s good at encouraging others.”
The Lady Falcons are currently on a hot streak, having won 10 of their last 11 matches and claiming the CIVT Small School Tournament championship along the way. But, FLC’s biggest obstacle to reaching their goals remains Woodland Christian, who topped the Lady Falcons in three sets earlier this season. The Lady Falcons do get another shot at the Cardinals when they host them Oct. 18.
“Against Woodland we will have to be perfect,” said Malarae.
Up next for FLC is a league bout with Foresthill Thursday.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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