The influence of a good teacher can never be erased.

That’s the quote displayed on the T-shirts of Faribault High School staff members in the FHS gym Tuesday night as the Falcons volleyball team (12-12 overall, 7-3 conference) defeated rival Owatonna (5-19 overall, 3-6 conference) by a score of 25-20, 19-25, 25-21, 25-14 on Staff Appreciation Night.

A night to honor the staff of FHS, it was a reminder for the athletes that they are students first and an opportunity to show staff what they mean to them. Given head coach JoAnna Lane doesn’t work at the school, it makes her appreciate the staff that much more.

“Our girls are first student-athletes. That comes first. Since I don’t work at the school, I rely heavily on the staff to be there for the kids,” said Lane. “In high school, you’re going through a lot of your formation years. Those kids need somebody during the school year to talk to and lean on.”

Each student had the opportunity to select a teacher to be recognized on Staff Appreciation Night. Given that they spend numerous amounts of hours at school, the students’ selection represented a personal connection with the staff member.

“The teachers spend a lot of time with the students during the school year. It’s really important that the kids have a good relationship with those teachers and have one they at least can connect with,” said Lane. “So it’s fun for us to highlight those teachers that they do feel connected to. Some of those teachers might not even know they’re making the impact they are. It’s a fun night to say thank you.”

In what seems to be a theme this season, the Falcons started the game slowly. The first set was sloppy on both sides, with several unforced errors by each team. Fortunately for Faribault, they were able to pull out a win thanks to a plethora of missed serves by Owatonna. The second featured similar-type play from Faribault, and this time Owatonna was able to take advantage for the win. In games three and four, Faribault said enough is enough, locked in, and pulled out the victory.

“The last two sets, we started to play on our toes and figure out their tendencies,” said Lane. “As coaches, we figured it out, then the players followed.”

Payton Evanstad filled up the stat sheet with a team-leading 20 kills while chipping in 14 assists and 13 digs. Bennett Wolff followed with 14 assists, 11 digs and seven kills. Hannah Cunniff led with 17 digs and added four assists.

With three games left in the regular season, Lane has some tricks up her sleeve to prepare her team for the postseason.

“I’m trying to do some different things in practice. On Thursday, I’m going to treat it like it’s game night. I have a couple of different people coming in to play against the girls to bring a different powerhouse and more importantly strong hitters to the table. We need to practice hitting against big outsides. Most conference players have at least one big hitter on their team. I’m hoping to bring two or three in.”

Faribault, sitting No. 8 of 12 in the Section 1AAA tournament standings, is looking to lock down a home game to begin the playoffs.

“Unfortunately we’re going to place lower than I wanted. We’ll be about 8, which will get us a home game,” Lane said. “The top three teams in our conference are phenomenal. They are all ranked in the top 10 in the state, so no matter what we’re going to have to knock off some good competition. I’m just going to focus on getting us a home game for the first playoff game then play some of the best volleyball we have all year.”

The Falcons are back in action at home 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14 vs. Zumbrota-Mazeppa.

Faribault 3, Owatonna 1

F — 25 19 25 25

O — 20 25 21 14

FHS statistics — Kills: Payton Evanstad 20, Olivia Bauer 10, Bennett Wolff 7, Izzy Herda 2, Meghan Swanson 1, Addi Dietsch 1 … Digs: Hannah Cunniff 17, Evanstad 13, Wolff 11, Herda 11, Bauer 7, Swanson 3, Malecha 2, Ellie Glende 1 … Assists: Evanstad 14, Wolff 14, Cunniff 4, Herda 1, Bauer 1 … Blocks: Wolff 7, Swanson 1 … Aces: Wolff 3, Glende 2, Bauer 2, Evanstad 1

Reach Sports Reporter Dan Slaubaugh at 507-333-3119 or follow him on Twitter @fdn_dan. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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