There’s something special about this year’s Lady Wave volleyball team.
Behind six seasoned seniors and a team-first approach, Fallon turned the corner this season, playing its best since league realignment six years ago. And with one more win, Fallon will be going back to the state tournament for the first time since the 4A days.
“None of us have ever been to state so that’ll be exciting,” senior hitter Kayla Buckmaster said. “A few of us have been to softball state, but none has been to volleyball. A few of us have been in basketball.”
After posting a 13-3 record in league, the Lady Wave picked up the No. 2 seed and received a bye in the 3A North Regional Tournament, which begins today at the Elmo Dericco Gymnasium. Fallon awaits the Dayton-Elko winner on Saturday at 2 p.m. The championship is at 4:30 p.m. and both teams will advance to state next week at Damonte Ranch.
“This is what we have worked on all season long, taking one game at a time,” Fallon coach Patty Daum said. “We have to take care of this game and only this game right now. End of story.”
All it takes for Fallon to make the state dream come true is win that opening game on Saturday. Fallon won both matches against Dayton and Elko during the regular season, but the playoffs are a new season.
“It’s really exciting. We still have to win that game to go to state,” senior setter Zoey Swisher said. “We feel good going into this weekend. We’re super focused. It’s really cool.”
Nothing’s changed for Fallon during practice except an increase in intensity and focus. All the players bought into Daum’s philosophy before the season that no one is above the rest. And it’s worked from Day 1 when Fallon defeated a pair of 4A teams and gave undefeated Truckee an admirable fight, taking the Wolverines to four games in both matches.
“We work really well together as a team and we understand each other’s athletic ability,” Buckmaster said. “We communicate well as a team. We all know our role as a team. Everyone’s accepted their position on the team. They all play 100 percent.”
Fallon possesses one of the most balanced rosters in the league and depth isn’t an issue.
It starts with the attacking corps with seniors Whitney Skabelund (151 kills), Haylee Paladini (119), LeAnn stands (97) and Buckmaster (88). Add in junior Faith Cornmesser, and Fallon presents an intimidating lineup at the net.
For Cornmesser, she’s been to state in softball and basketball and said the experience helps the team prepare for handling pressure.
“It’s just dealing with different types of pressure and being put in different pressure types in practice,” she said.
“I definitely think it helps for people who already have been to state to know the pressure and performance to give to win,” said Buckmaster, who leads the team in digs with 78. “You know you have to play your best. They’re going to be an asset to our team because we’ve been under those pressure situations before.”
Stands (100 total blocks), Skabelund (92) and Paladini (71) complement the hitting attack, and just like its presence at the net, Fallon’s been good away at the serving stripe. Fallon tallied 138 aces during the season with Paladini (29), Skabelund (21) and Buckmaster (20) leading the team.
Swisher’s been the go-to as setter with 426 assists, but like the team’s approach of being diversified, several players have gained experience in the position. Skabelund, Paladini and junior Macie Anderson have shared setter responsibilities.
“Everybody knows their role and they do them well. There’s always a backup,” Swisher said. “Somebody can step in and do just as good a job. We can take care of every position.”