Southwest Florida Christian Academy’s Nicole Nicely, 17, center, leads a volleyball conditioning drill during practice Friday at SFCA in Fort Myers.
Southwest Florida Christian Academy’s volleyball team has experienced quite a bit of success in its program’s young history.
The Kings enter this season off of back-to-back district championships as well as their first two region semifinal appearances.
“We kind of have a little chip on our shoulder,” said junior Ally Firth, who led the team with 270 kills last season.
“But, now we have to go into the season and really push hard to make sure we go way past that point, so I think we’re really focused on that this year and are going to try our best to achieve that.”
The past success came with head coach Justin Altman at the helm. Altman left the school after two years with a 30-20 record to accept the head volleyball coaching job at Cape Coral High School.
New head coach Bradley LaFlamme is inheriting an almost completely intact team, with all but one player returning, looking to continue SFCA’s success and take the school farther than it’s ever been.
“It’s been a very smooth transition,” said LaFlamme said, who served as an assistant on Altman’s staff in 2013.
“The girls have had their heads to the grindstone trying to be ready to go. They’re very comfortable with my coaching style and are excited to get started.”
LaFlamme is using his experience as a player at Warner University to try and make his players more accountable on the court and giving them ways to understand the game better.
“I’m trying to give them the tools to be smart players on the court and making decisions on their own. This makes the game speed a lot faster and changes the way they understand and read the game,” LaFlamme said.
This coaching style has resonated with the veteran players like Frith and senior Nicole Nicely as well as the newer members.
“We’ve been running a different style than usual, which allows us to mix things up and get a better chemistry out of our team with the different positions that people are in,” said Nicely, the lone senior on the team who registered 708 assists last year.
“He’s (LaFlamme) really hands-on and gives us a lot of game-like drills, so it’s really cool, and I’m excited to see how we’re going to run these plays.”
Despite the changes, LaFlamme believes the camaraderie and experience his players gained over the past two seasons will help the team get past the regional semifinal round this postseason.
“One thing that they were lacking was the drive and want, but now they’ve already asked to do more intense workouts so that they’re prepared to get over the hump,” LaFlamme said.
“I believe that this is their year to do some damage in the volleyball world.”