From the outside looking in the odds could have been stacked against the Faith Academy Bellville volleyball team to start the 2017 season.
The Lady Knights welcomed a new coaching staff, witnessed the graduation of several key players from a 2016 playoff team and returned a roster with little varsity experience.
Couple all those things with the fact the team has been plagued with injuries throughout the season and things could have looked bleak for a program that prides itself on being successful year after year.
But, instead of just calling it a rebuilding year, this year’s team of Lady Knights persevered all the way to the program’s 14th consecutive district title.
Faith knocked off Conroe Calvary 25-12, 25-18, 25-14 and The Oaks School 25-8, 25-8, 25-9 to finish the regular season 9-1 in District 9-A and 16-8-3 overall.
“[Winning district] is definitely something you can’t take for granted regardless of what level you play or what sport you play,” Head coach Joshua McLain said.
McLain, who has nearly 20 years of experience coaching the sport, believes that even with a tradition like the one Faith has, nothing is ever a given.
“This team earned it. They have bought into a team concept and now they want to go out and try to bring home the school’s first state volleyball championship,” He said.
With four sophomores, one junior and two senior starters, reaching the highest pinnacle might seem possible. The only thing standing in the Lady Knights’ way would be a good mix of ingredients that the coach says championship teams have.
“We have two players on this year’s team that have actual state tournament experience but that was a couple of years ago and they were underclassmen,” McLain said. “Experience is a special thing to have on your side. Maturity is too. Both play big roles because I believe those two things have to play off of one another when you get to that big stage.”
McLain has experience on the big stage having coached at TAPPS 6A power St. Agnes Academy, and among the club ranks when he coached teams to top finishes at various national qualifiers. He helped guide the Lady Tigers to a State Final Four appearance in 2012 and then a regional final appearance in 2013.
“Skill is definitely a given when you go deep into the playoffs. After that it boils down to which team has that factor of experience, maturity and the willingness to play as a cohesive team in order to finish the big matches. Without that mix I think teams can miss the opportunity to be the last one standing.”
Faith’s team is spearheaded by seniors Hannah Taake and Destiny Interiano, junior Lacy Phillips, sophomores Marissa Przyborski, Regan Woodley, Isabella Schoenborn, Macy McDonald, Regan Majewski, Gabriella Yates and freshman Tyler Johnston.
Phillips is the floor leader at the setter position and leads the team in assists. Taake, Przyborski, Woodley, Schoenborn, Interiano and Johnston provide the bulk of the offense from game to game. McDonald, Majewski and Yates provide the needed sparks and support off the bench for the Lady Knights.
The coach believes this team has something special if they keep bonding and growing at a team.
“We have to be about a team of players and not about individual players who just go out and play the game,” the coach said. “I hope we are past the latter. I think they have learned it takes a team effort over the course of the season to accomplish a goal. We have to keep that team mentality in order to get where we want to be.
McLain said there’s no other way the Lady Knights can approach the rest of the season.
“When we need someone to step up, whether it is a starter or reserve player, we need to continue to function as a close-nit team. That is where we have to continue to grow in order to be successful.”
Faith will begin participating in postseason play next week.