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Fresh faces lead Faith Lutheran into postseason

A certain aura of mystery tends to surround a team that returns only one starter from the previous year.

But Faith Lutheran girls volleyball coach Amy Fisher insists she knew what to expect this season.

“I knew what we had coming,” Fisher said. “We had half the team back from last year, and we knew what the kids were bringing to the floor.

“We had to change our mentality in that we weren’t going to have the big-time hitters like we did last year, in four of the five positions. Our strength was going to be in the middle, and hopefully our strength is going to be ball control.”

The Crusaders (20-10) overcame the fresh faces and finished No. 2 in the Northwest League, earning a first-round date with Bonanza (19-11) at 3:40 p.m. today in the Sunset Region playoffs at Legacy.

In the other Sunset quarterfinals at Legacy, Shadow Ridge plays Sierra Vista at 2 p.m., Arbor View plays Bishop Gorman at 5:20, and Pahrump Valley plays Centennial at 7. The Sunrise Region also begins today at Las Vegas High. Sunrise Mountain plays Green Valley at 2 p.m., Silverado plays Eldorado at 3:40, Valley plays Coronado at 5:20, and Basic plays Las Vegas at 7.

Faith Lutheran lost all of its significant hitters from last year’s squad. But junior setter Kelsey McCourt provided a stable foundation for the new faces.

“Coming into this season, I was so nervous,” said McCourt, who has 805 assists, 142 digs and 46 aces this year. “I didn’t think we would be as good or the season would be as much fun. But we’re doing so much better than I expected, and it’s been so much fun. I’m really proud of our team, because we’re so young but we’re doing way beyond what I expected.”

A major difference this season is increased focus — in matches and at practice, McCourt said.

“Last  year, we just liked to have fun, but this team is really focused,” she said. “We still have fun, but in practice we’re very focused and very determined.”

Most of the team has played together for several years in middle school and with club teams. McCourt and starters Taylor Hammer, Taylor Richards, Chelsea Kronschnabel and Vanessa Sigman played together on the club circuit.

Sophomore hitters Hammer and Richards have played a significant role in Faith Lutheran’s new attack. They share a tight bond on and off the court.

“We both went to The Meadows together until sixth grade, and then in seventh grade, we came (to Faith Lutheran Junior High) and have played volleyball together all those years,” said Richards, who has 180 kills, 135 digs and 43 aces this season. “I see her every weekend, especially when we have family gatherings. We go on vacation with each other every summer and every spring break.”

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