Ford II volleyball team navigating tough schedule to prep for postseason

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 25, 2012

 Utica Ford II senior Brianna Baker (6) and the Falcons had played in more matches than any team in the entire MAC at press time.

Utica Ford II senior Brianna Baker (6) and the Falcons had played in more matches than any team in the entire MAC at press time.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Utica Ford II volleyball coach Lisa Sanford said she likes the idea of using a tough early season slate to get her team ready for league and postseason play.


That’s what Sanford did this season, and at press time, the Falcons  had played in more matches than any other team in the Macomb Area Conference.


“That’s something the (athletic director) and I talked about before the start of the season,” said Sanford, who returned to coach Ford II after leading the Falcons from 2003-07.


“I think playing in a lot of tournaments and quads pays dividends once you get into league play, and it also helps you get ready for the playoffs by giving the team the experience of playing in a lot of different environments.”


Senior setter Valerie Knight agreed, saying she sees no negatives associated with playing a difficult schedule.


Like any team, Ford II (15-16-1, 0-2-2 in the MAC White at press time) would relish winning a division title. Sanford said regular-season success is nice, but standing out in the postseason has more far-reaching effects.


The Falcons last won a division title in 2009.


“We’re kind of a young team this year, so I think what (Sanford) has done with the schedule is really good for us,” Ford II senior Brianna Baker said. “There’s still things we’re working on, like communicating on the court, but we’re getting there, and we expect to be playing our best at the end of the season going into the playoffs.”


Baker is one of five seniors Sanford said has helped younger members of the squad adjust to the new coaching staff. Even though it’s an entirely new group of coaches, the goals the team has didn’t change, according to Sanford.


“This has been a good team,” Sanford said. “We know they were just a game away from winning a division, so we just wanted to come in and pick up where they’ve left off. We weren’t looking at this season as a rebuild.”


Sanford touted Baker as one of Ford II’s strongest players, saying the senior can play just about anywhere on the court.


Sanford also tapped Knight, senior Megan Damore and junior Sam Ryner as standouts for the Falcons.


“We’re 0-2 in the league right now, but we’ve got a lot of games under our belt and still a lot to play,” Sanford said. “We just want to keep improving and getting better, and I think we’re on the right track.”


Ford II’s next matchup is a meeting with rival Utica Stevenson, set for 7:30 Sept. 27 at Stevenson.