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Despite ending, Faith Academy volleyball shows plenty of positives

CAPTION: Faith Academy of Marble Falls head coach Erin Sawyer and the Lady Flames were one win away from forcing a play-in match for the final playoff berth. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

The Faith Academy of Marble Falls volleyball team lost to Waco Live Oak 17-25, 23-25, 23-25 Oct. 17 to end its season.

Despite the ending, head coach Erin Sawyer noted the many positives from the season, including playing in and winning more matches, having more students playing the sport, and the Lady Flames putting themselves in position for a playoff berth.

After Live Oak took the first set, the Lady Flames looked to even the match by taking the second set. Both teams matched each other point for point and didn’t allow the other to build an insurmountable lead. Live Oak simply made more plays at the end to capture the set.

Knowing their season was on the line, the Lady Flames raced to a 17-7 lead in the third set behind the serving of junior setter Hadley Shipley. But the Lady Falcons wouldn’t be denied and won the match by having a run of their own.

“We couldn’t convert,” Sawyer said. “Hadley got us up 10 by serving for us. That’s why we had such a great lead. Next thing you know, they’re tied with us. In the second set, we couldn’t get any runs going.”

To illustrate how close the match was, consider this. Live Oak had 31 kills to Faith Academy’s 29. Live Oak had eight aces to Faith Academy’s seven and each team had seven service errors. Live Oak had 48 digs to Faith Academy’s 49.

A day after the match, Sawyer was still replaying it with the aim of understanding how to better help her players in the future.

“My girls were excited,” she said. “They were getting ready and pumped. I don’t know if we’re not used to winning or coming from behind and fighting for what we want. The girls have a desire to win. I don’t know if they know how to and what to do to respond.”

Shipley led Faith with nine kills, four aces, 10 digs and a block followed by sophomore Natalie Weems with seven kills and a block, and senior Brooke Farmer had five kills. Senior defensive specialist Carleigh Henderson had 12 digs followed by junior Jillian Martin with 10.

Sawyer believes the 2023 season was great for building up toward what’s next, which is making the playoffs. To do that requires work that doesn’t take place between August and October, she said, which is volleyball season. She plans on having an offseason program where the Lady Flames can play the sport beginning in January and then increasing those opportunities during the week once basketball season ends.

“I want to increase their knowledge and court IQ,” she said. “The girls don’t play a lot, and it’s no fault of their own. They have to learn and know that if this happens, how to get the thing turned around. We’re going to work on fundamentals, work on passing and hitting.”

When Sawyer, who was the assistant coach the last couple of years, accepted the head coaching job, she had three goals for the program: to play more matches, to improve and to get the players out of their comfort zones.

And she saw that throughout the season.

“We’re better than we were last year,” she said. “My girls didn’t give up.”

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