FLOWERY BRANCH — Not long after the Flowery Branch Lady Falcons volleyball team defeated White County in straight sets 25-17, 25-21 in Flowery Branch, a herd of players, parents, and fans surrounded coach Bryan Mavis and introduced him with a special gift basket.
“We wanted to just show you our love, and food,” laughed senior middle blocker Jena Killian, one of the veteran staples on this 12-member roster.
Mavis, whose grandfather died just days prior at the age of 90, responded in-kind by showing appreciation for those acts and messages of support given throughout the week.
It appears that sense of community within the team, and strong bonds has been the driving force of the Lady Falcons as of late.
“You have to have relationships, and most of the team was on varsity last year, so we really bonded last year,” said Killian, who contributed three kills, 1 1/2 blocks and one service ace in the win on Tuesday. “We just brought that to 2016, and you just have to trust your team.”
The Lady Falcons (13-1) are certainly setting themselves up to meeting the main goal: a chance to play beyond the Area tournament.
The Lady Falcons fell short of that objective in 2015 with an 18-18 record.
“Last year we wanted to be there, and kind of fell a little short,” Mavis said. “So that was our goal right from the get-go, work for October.”
This season they plan to finish what they started under Mavis.
“I feel like we have a lot more fight in us this year, than we did last year, a little more perseverance,” Flowery Branch junior middle blocker Anna Marshall said.
The Lady Falcons’ only loss came against Mill Creek during their Battle at the Branch volleyball tournament earlier this month, a real first test for Mavis’s rejuvenated squad as they enter Area 8-AAAAA play.
Mavis’s approach this season has been getting his girls to play more aggressive, and attack at a faster rate than opponents. There has also been more accountability in understanding the way things are done on the court, according to Mavis. Having some returning pieces have been a big help as well.
“The senior leadership has been great,” Mavis said. “I’ve got some young players that are really strong players, but they still look to those seniors for some guidance, especially if they were new to varsity this year. That was probably the main difference, because right from the get-go they were ready to do what the plan was, which was play more aggressive and keeping everything in front of us, and really going and trying to attack the ball.”
That mindset came to light on Tuesday, first bolting to a 7-0 lead attributed to kills by Killian and sophomore Madison Dowdy, the Lady Falcons’ leading attacker. Dowdy added two more kills, and the Lady Falcons eventually capped the opening set on a 6-0 run.
Despite encountering White County’s scrappy nature during the second set, the Lady Falcons eventually held on for a four-point advantage to close it out.
“We always try to fight for those last few points, doesn’t matter if it’s power, playing smart. Whatever works, We’ll take it,” Killian said of the second set.
“They’re not gonna bring a lot of power, but they’re gonna get every ball back up,” Mavis added. “They’re scrappy and they work hard. Their coach gets them to work hard for her.”
Flowery Branch faces Prince Avenue Christian on Thursday in Athens.