Lady Falcons return 10 players, including 3 senior captains
By David Yarger
Niagara-Wheatfield girls volleyball coach Brandi Cochran experienced a whirlwind of a season last year. She raised her first sole Niagara Frontier League title, and then ventured off to the Section VI Class A championship for the first time in program history, where they were eventually defeated. Nevertheless, Cochran knows, even though last season was good, 2018 could be better.
Cochran returns 10 players, including senior captains Jenna Sonnenberg, Danielle Brochey and Mackenzie Franks, whom all made First Team All-NFL last season.
Cochran said the team's chemistry is a big key to this year's season, as majority of the girls have played alongside each other for years.
"They've been playing since eighth- and ninth-grade together, so now that big group is our seniors. We have some younger girls that are new last year - eighth or ninth graders - but now they're a year older. They're all club players - they either play together (in the) offseason or they at least know what the game is about through the entire year.
"I'm very lucky to have a team that has the chemistry. ... My veterans need to be leaders this year, and they will be, so they can help the new girls come in and do well," Cochran said.
Coming into this season off a historic previous year, Cochran didn't turn down the fact that a lot is probably expected of the Lady Falcons.
"There's potential to be a lot of pressure on us, but ... I've been talking to the girls, and even myself, too, to just take it one match at a time," she said.
With majority of last year's team returning, some may have a sour taste from the sectional final defeat. Cochran put an interesting twist on the story, and added some girls who played softball on her team had to endure two sectional final losses, and said they could be motivated by both losses.
"A bunch of them actually went to the finals for softball, too. ... I think a lot of them are just waiting for this year to prove themselves, that they really can make it back, if we do well, and I don't think they wanna leave that gym unless we're winning. But it's so far in the future," Cochran said.
This year's team picked up a first-time volleyball player in LeGary Jackson, who now starts on the Lady Falcons' front line. Jackson, a three-sport athlete (basketball, track and field), is one example of how Cochran called this team very athletic. Cochran added that last year's team was incredibly athletic, but this year "We have it all together, I just think we need to figure out all the pieces, and hopefully we do well this year," she said.
After last year's season, it was kind of hard for Cochran not to say sectionals or bust, but she remained adamant to her "one match at a time" mindset for 2018.
"I think that we are going to play the best volleyball that we can, and I think if they all work together they're going to find a way to be successful. ... I hope whatever their goals are, along with my goals, we figure it out, but I don't want to predict it. ... Hopefully we find a way to do as well, if not, better than last year," Cochran said.
The Lady Falcons won their first match versus Lockport 3-0 (25-13, 25-13, 25-18). The girls' next match is at 4:45 p.m. Friday at North Tonawanda.