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Falcons poised for a big year

Forest Lake Volleyball Preview
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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Travis Smith often remembers his 2006 Sac-Joaquin Section Division V runner-up squad when he watches this year’s Forest Lake Christian volleyball team take the court. “What got them to that section championship game was just pure heart,” Smith said. “We went up against Turlock and they were a better team in every aspect of the game. They showed it, but for us just getting there was something we hadn’t even dreamed of at the beginning of the year. This new group of girls has that heart and has that leadership but has more skill.” The 2006 title match appearance was the eighth in school history, but the Falcons are still searching for their second section championship. “This is the best team we’ve had in quite some time to take that crown, based on skill, experience, team cohesiveness and overall drive” said Smith, who returns after a two-year hiatus for his seventh year at the helm. “They’re ready for this. They’ve seen second for too many years.” Smith first coached Forest Lake’s varsity program in 1999, the year after the Falcons won their lone section title. His 2009 squad features a trio of stellar seniors who have been playing together at the varsity level for three years. Captains Caitlin Hanson, Jen Menary and Morghan Pomeroy anchor a potent offense. “They’re huge,” said Smith, who also coaches his daughter on Forest Lake’s junior varsity squad. “I wouldn’t have attempted to coach both teams had I not had leadership like that on the court. To have three players who are great all-around athletes and leaders, that’s huge.” Hanson led the Falcons with 147 kills last year, while Menary, the setter, served 100 aces. Pomeroy was tops on the team with 57 blocks. Her 102 kills were second only to Hanson. “We are really excited for this season, to give it our all and see how far we can go,” Menary said. “Our main focus is to have a really strong offense.” Senior twins Christy and Leslie Johnston bolster the attack from the outside and 6-foot-2 Ally Kirsch, a junior transfer from Reno, adds size at the net. Junior Molly Huusfeldt has evolved into one of the team’s top hitters. “Our offense is developing, but it’s already further than I anticipated it to be,” Smith said. “We’re a strong serving team. We’re a strong passing team. We’re a strong hitting team. We execute well.” The Falcons, who finished 16-10 a year ago and fell short in the section playoffs again, open Central Valley Christian League at Sacramento Waldorf on Sept. 22. “Our No. 1 goal is to win league, like outright,” Smith said. “Last year they lost two matches and still managed mathematically to tie for first. We want everyone to know we’re No. 1. I’m looking at sections. I’ve told them, ‘You know what, you have the potential to actually do this.’”