FRIENDSWOOD

In order to achieve something that used to be common for the Friendswood Lady Mustangs volleyball program, they had to become uncommon.

“It was a pretty difficult offseason, and our strength and conditioning coach gave them a speech at the beginning and said, ‘Anyone can be a common girl. We want you to be uncommon, do stuff that everyone doesn’t do, be better than the common girl,’” Friendswood head coach Sarah Paulk said. “And they’ve kind of taken to that and embraced it.”

With Tuesday’s 25-19, 25-23, 25-16 home win over Alvin, Friendswood put the final touches on an undefeated District 24-6A championship season.

It’s the Lady Mustangs’ first district championship in four years of playing at the Class 6A level, following a dominant run in Class 4A, where they were perennial district champions and state title contenders.

“I couldn’t ask for a better team,” Friendswood senior right-side hitter Faith Marabella said. “Our team chemistry is so good. I’ve never had such a great team to play with, and I’m just very blessed for this to happen my senior year.”

It became clear Class 6A was a whole other level of competition when Friendswood moved up for the 2014 season and posted just a 3-11 district record. In 2015 went 6-8 in district play before reaching the playoffs for the first time in Class 6A last year, Paulk’s first with the team.

As a four-year varsity player, Marabella witnessed firsthand the program’s struggle to adjust to Class 6A play and steady rise back to the top of the district standings.

“My freshman year, it was rough, and everyone was kind of down and wondering if it was ever going to pick back up again,” Marabella said. “And having multiple coaches in my high school career, it was hard to adapt to a new leader, but once coach Paulk came, everything connected and I felt like our team chemistry was really good. I’m just really, really happy that we found something that works and found something that clicked.”

In Tuesday’s match, Alvin managed to keep the first two sets close, but never had Friendswood in major danger. After a stern pep talk from Paulk after the second set, the Lady Mustangs dominated the final set to close out the win and seal the undefeated district title.

“From my freshman year, I was always like, ‘This could be our year,’ but this year, it felt different,” Marabella said. “I was really excited about the team from the very beginning. I just felt it more than I have any other year.”

Leaders for Friendswood in Tuesday’s match were senior middle blocker McKenna Fridye (13 kills, four blocks, three aces), senior libero Kylie Lockhart (15 digs) and senior setter Zeyanna Dhalla (27 assists).

The District 24-6A champion Friendswood (14-0 in district) will now face District 23-6A fourth-place finisher Brazoswood in the bi-district round of the playoffs next week at time, date and location to be determined.

“I’m so proud of the girls and the way that they’ve played as a team and to pull together,” Paulk said. “To come in here and go undefeated is huge for them.

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, james.lacombe@galvnews.com or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

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