Twice-Told Tale

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Twice-Told Tale

Twice-Told Tale

Constant Growth Spikes for Team

Mr. Bob Gall
(Above) The boys get ready for their game with their pre-game chant. The boys will huddle up after high-fiving their opponents at the net. They use this cheer to prepare the mindset for the game.

Lake Highland’s athletic program is one of the best in the country, constantly striving to improve and dominate competition in all sports, from football to boys’ volleyball. Many programs have been on the rise at Lake Highland recently like cross country, archery, and basketball. However, the boy’s volleyball team has the best record in program history and is looking to beat last season’s record of 7-15. The boy’s volleyball team has worked hard over the past offseason to prepare for an even better season. The Highlanders are replacing last year’s talented Seniors with many new underclassmen in the outside pin position (positions on the outside and right) and defensive specialists. With each coming season, new challenges are faced and head coach, Jeremy Fonnett, has turned those challenges into an opportunity to gain another win for the team and help them improve. In his fourth season as head coach, Coach Fonnett and his assistant, Coach Katie Gallagher, have constantly improved the team’s record, but how has this program continued such a successful run? What have the Highlanders been doing to come back better than ever? 

First and foremost, fans are wondering how the team achieved their best record last season. Coach Fonnett emphasized that, “Commitment was the number one thing. At the end of tryouts, [I] asked each of them if they were ready to commit to this team for the entire season.” He went on to explain that when students can’t, “Confidently commit” he still, “Respects [them] for making that decision.”  His players have been motivated to work hard even before pre-season. Although waking up for practices at 6:30 in the morning is difficult, they have had players, “Showing up twice a week since the new year.”

Commitment is very important to Coach Fonnett, and he is always looking for the best in players. Volleyball is a game of precision and skills in every position, and Coach Fonnett makes sure his players can commit before adding them to the roster because, “Volleyball is a very skill-based game. If you don’t commit to practicing every day during an already shortened season (Winter Break and Spring Break they are off), it is very hard to beat other teams that are all in. The boys did a great job giving me their all, and with some great leaders, they had their best season in school history so far.” Leadership at Lake Highland is very important, and student-athletes practice it not only during school, but also on the court. Leadership is always hard to replace. However, Coach Fonnett does not believe in replacing talent as, “It is near impossible to replace players that were leaders in kills, digs, and assists…” 

With the new open spots for defensive specialists and liberos, Coach Fonnett has had so much talent step into his gym. They are often, “The lifeblood of a volleyball team.” Coach Fonnet explained, “Their willingness to sacrifice their body for their teammates can really set the tone for an entire match. We have a number of young players fighting for these defensive specialist spots, and they are doing a great job at it. They are working hard and learning fast. I’m very excited to see what the future has in store for a lot of our defensive specialists.” 

Coach Fonnett plans his defense around what his players specialize in, and this year he has decided to change the way the defense is going to work. This change means that, “Defensively, boy’s volleyball is going to lean towards a modified rotational defense where [they] give up the big line hit.” He further explains that the team is, “Going to play the percentage game, and percentages say that the majority of swings go to the angle. We are going to take that away and dare them to beat us in something that most players are uncomfortable with.” Coach Fonnett has been working on his hitter’s ability to hit the ball cross-court with different sets.

While Coach Fonnett has plenty of defensive schemes, this team is very well-rounded in both defense and offense. He explained, “…We have potentially two setters that fit this mold. We also have a number of players who are learning to be volleyball players and not a position… There may be some unique lineups where we may have three setters that can hit on the court at the same time, and we switch depending on matchups.” 

Coach Fonnett has enjoyed every minute of coaching boys’ volleyball because he used to play and loves helping other players grow. He states, “I have played or coached this sport for many years because I have a passion for it. Few things in this world are as invigorating as a huge kill, a massive stuff block, or a diving dig. Until those feelings go away, I will continue to be part of this sport in whatever capacity I can.” Going into a new season is always challenging, but remembering the best moments from last season is crucial to Coach Fonnett. For example, on April 19, 2023, the team was playing at Jones High School, one of the Highlander’s toughest competitors. He explained that despite having, “A slow start…the boys regrouped, took the next two, and we celebrated outside with some family that were there watching for our record-breaking sixth win. We would end up winning one more last year, but breaking the record and reaching a goal was huge!” 

Therefore, Coach Fonnett has plenty to say about this new season and what this team of Highlanders had in store. The question that is on everyone’s mind is how this team is going to refuel its roster after many talented Seniors graduated last year, but Coach Fonnett already has a plan. He says that due to their successful season, “The momentum from last season has carried over to the beginning of this season.  Last year for open gyms, we struggled to get guys to show up… Last week, we had 18 guys show up with a lot of them being returners.”

However, Coach Fonnett has different leaders step up, such as returning pin hitter and setter Blake Feranec, grade 10, who was a part of last season’s roster. He has, “Played since 8th grade, and [he] started because [he] watched it on television and thought it looked fun.” Feranec has helped this new team get used to their style of play,  build good team chemistry, and share his passion for the sport with the team. In the future, he, “Would love to continue playing Volleyball. [He] loves the sport and has so much fun when playing the game!” 

However, the player’s athletic leadership is most evident when looking at new players, such as defensive specialist, Justin Kelly, grade 10. Kelly has already made so many connections with his teammates including role models who help him in practice. He says, “Tochi Onyia [grade 12] and Will Beamer [grade 12] have been my biggest inspirations while playing at Lake Highland. They both work so hard at practice, and the work is paying off. One day I hope that I can play like them and put in the work to get there.” Kelly is filling in big shoes replacing Senior defensive specialists, but his teammates have helped him prepare for this pressure. He hopes to, “Live up to the other Highlanders before [him] and be active on the court and communicate with [his] other teammates effectively so we can win a championship this season.”

It is without a doubt that this team deserves all of the spotlight and attention this spring season. This team of Highlanders has worked so hard in the off-season and pre-season in order to prepare for their best season yet, using a new style of offense and defensive system that Coach Fonnett and his assistant coaches have worked extremely hard to implement. With a great new roster of returning stars and new faces, this season is looking to be a fun and even better one than last year with a great team for the Lake Highland community to come out and support during the spring season.

(Above) Brady Kohn, grade 11, reaches up to attack the ball. All season Brady has worked on hitting cross-court shots in practice with different sets. Practicing his range of shots helps prepare him for game-like scenarios. (Mr. Bob Gall)
(Above) Tochi Onyia, grade 12, dives to dig up a ball to help set up his team to score a point. Coach Fonnett makes sure his team practices defense just as much as offense to help his team be more rounded. (Mr. Bob Gall)
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About the Contributor
Hayden Roberts
Hayden Roberts, Co-Editor
Hayden Roberts is a sports writer for Lake Highland Preparatory School's Upper School newspaper Twice-Told Tale. Hayden has been writing for the newspaper since January 2023. Roberts loves to cover and write about all different sports and hopes one day to study sports journalism. When not writing, Roberts enjoys playing volleyball.

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