PREP VOLLEYBALL: Forest Lake Christian looks to land first section championship since 1998
KNOW & GO
What: Sac-Joaquin Section D-VI Championship
Who: No. 2 Forest Lake Christian (24-5) vs. No. 1 Stone Ridge Christian (27-6)
When: Noon, Saturday
Where: Ripon High School, 301 N Acacia Ave, Ripon
The Lady Falcons from Forest Lake Christian have been on quite a journey this season.
After starting the volleyball season 0-3, the Lady Falcons reeled off 24 wins in their next 26 matches including a pair of Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoff victories. Now, they have a chance to win the school’s first section title since 1998.
“They’ve shown a lot of growth, a lot of maturity,” FLC head coach Travis Smith said of his team. “What’s made them successful as a team is they’ve all grown together.”
Smith said he knew he had a strong group of players when the season started, but needed to mold them into a team.
“That was our problem at the beginning of the season. We weren’t a team,” he said. “We had a bunch of good individual players and it took 3/4 of the season for them to gel as a team.”
Now, they’re playing their best volleyball of the season as they head into today’s championship game against the No. 1 seed Stone Ridge Christian Knights (27-6).
The No. 2 seed Lady Falcons (24-5) are a relatively young team, boasting just two seniors, but they are a cohesive unit with a drive to continually improve.
“They don’t settle for things the way they are,” said Smith. “They are always looking forward, and always pushing forward.”
While Forest Lake Christian’s volleyball program is perennial playoff team, this flock of Lady Falcons is the first to reach a section title game since 2006.
A big reason they are in the championship is senior middle hitter Lily Sween, who tallied 21 kills and six blocks to lead FLC back from a 2-0 deficit against Big Valley Christian in the semifinals.
“I told the girls, ‘this is my senior year, we are not losing this game. This is not going to be my last game,’” Sween told The Union after FLC’s semifinal win. “And we just pulled together as a team… We were energetic and just excited and pumped. So much adrenaline it was amazing.”
Smith said Sween’s leadership on and off the court has been invaluable to the team.
“She’s firmly encouraging,” he said. “She’s encouraging but at the same time, there’s a definitive tone to her voice that everybody just rallies to.”
The 5-foot, 11-inch Sween leads the team in kills and blocks this season.
FLC also boasts skilled players in junior libero Raegan Tanon, sophomore outside hitter Ellie Wood, junior hitter Taylor Dunn, junior setter Bella O’Neill, junior middle hitter Katie Lowery, sophomore middle hitter Sonja Sween, sophomore setter Mackenzie Wickstrom and senior hitter Breezy Adams.
“We do everything well,” said Smith. “We serve well, we hit well, we block well, we pass well. To win sections you need to do everything well and we do.”
The Lady Falcons will be facing a Stone Ridge Christian Knights team which also does a lot of things well and is hungry for a section title themselves.
Stone Ridge Christian has been a contender in D-VI for the past five years, falling short in the title game in four straight seasons (2013-2016). In 2017, they were eliminated in the semifinals by eventual champ Woodland Christian.
The Knights are led by 5-10 sophomore hitter Maartje Vander Dussen and 5-10 senior hitter Sadi Tucker.
“I know it’s going to be a fight,” Smith said. “They are one of those teams that does everything well. In a lot of ways they are just like us and that’s exciting. It’s going to come down to execution.”
The D-VI championship game is set for noon, today at Ripon High School.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.
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