Arlee spikers form close ties
ARLEE — According to Arlee volleyball coach Brian BigSam, there is “no comparison” between the team he took over four years ago and Arlee’s current volleyball program.
“My first year, I actually had to recruit girls so we could make a JV team,” BigSam said. “The volleyball program at Arlee has grown so much that we were able to have three teams this season — varsity, junior varsity, and a C-squad.”
Beyond simple numbers, BigSam said his team is a great team because they all get along so well. Many have been playing together since grade school.
“They know how each other plays, and they know how their teammates think. If they get along that well, you know you’re going to have an awesome team,” he said. “Next year is only going to be better.”
To create this inclusive atmosphere, BigSam said he never splits the girls up by age during drills in practice. Instead, he treats them all equally and demands that they be compassionate and sincere towards each other.
“No matter how many girls I have, I make sure my practices are not divided and they all practice together. If you get along with everybody, you’ll have a team that is strong and willing to do whatever they need to go far,” he said.
In addition to an incredible sense of teamwork, BigSam said senior leadership has played a big role in this year’s team and the Scarlets’ possible advance to the divisional tournament.
BigSam said senior Mahalia Hendren has the willpower and athletic ability to lead his girls far in the postseason, and called senior Skyla Perry his “want’s-everyone-to-be-happy-go-getter” and said that every team needs one.
“(Mahalia’s) a team player, and she has the mentality to be a strong leader on and off the courts,” he said, “and (Skyla) does an awesome job at making sure the girls all cheer for each other and encourage each other.”
Athletic director Jim Taylor said the Arlee Scarlets were in fourth place in the league heading into the district tourney, and while they are a young team, he has high hopes for the post season and next year.
“When you’re a young team, you need those couple seniors to keep you going,” Taylor said.
Perry said she’d been playing with the same group of girls for the past four years.
“It’s sad that my senior year of volleyball is coming to an end, but I’m excited for the tournament, and I know we’ll do well. We’re really coming together as a team and playing well,” she said.
Perry wanted to thank the Scarlet’s fans and her younger teammates for making her senior year memorable, and offered a few words of advice to those younger girls: “Good luck; keep your heads up; and never give up.”
the Scarlets earned third place in the tournament by taking down Superior (ranked first coming into the tournament) and played a challenge game against Seeley-Swan Lake High School Monday night to determine who goes to the divisional round.
“The girls played awesome,” BigSam said. “They went further than I think a lot of them thought they would, so I was very happy with how they performed.”