The St. Paul Falcons got off to a hot start this season as the team quickly jumped to a 6-2 record. The Falcons most recently fell to Woodland last Thursday, marking it their third loss of the season. However, the team is already in a much different place than they were last year.
St. Paul coach Riley Maloney said entering the season the team had their eyes set on eight wins in order to qualify for the state tournament, but now thanks to their early success the team is realizing just how far they can actually go.
“We have a very talented team, but really it’s their heart and how badly they want it,” Maloney said. “The girls are all so dedicated to the team and so committed to the sport. They always want to practice longer and practice more.”
Maloney said the biggest struggle that the Falcons have had so far this season is consistency, specifically in the second set. She said consistency is something the returning seniors discussed even before the season started.
Last season, the Falcons went to five sets in most of their games and struggled to close out sets even when they were in winnable games. This season, their consistency mishaps lie in the hands of small communication issues.
“Sometimes they put pressure on themselves and become a little panicky and start playing that way,” Maloney said. “We’ve improved a lot from the beginning of the year where, we’d be down 8-0 right from the beginning because they hadn’t settled down yet.”
She said it’s more of a mental thing than a skill thing, but lately they have been working on even when they are in those moments not allowing themselves to stay stuck in it.
“That’s something that they have been working on individually and as a team,” she said. “They have improved a lot. When we’re getting into those holes they just want to win for the St. Paul program and they are willing to fight.”
Despite the small moments of inconsistency, there have been a lot of positives and surprises from the Falcons. Maloney said two players who have been welcomed surprises have been Allie Barton and Ellie Galasso.
She said Barton is an “unbelievable” player who hits the ball harder than anyone they have seen so far. She said the teams trust Barton and rely on her offensively.
She said of Galasso, who plays libero, is one of the most consistent players she has ever seen. She said Galasso leads the defense and is a leader on and off the court.
“Even an off day for Ellie is not an off day. She is so reliable,” Maloney said. “I think the two of them have really taken control of the offense and defense in a way that helps us keep winning and allows us to be a sturdier and more productive team.”
St. Paul’s early success cannot solely be attributed to Maloney’s coaching or the team’s play. Instead it is from a relationship between both of them that allows the players to have open conversations on the direction of the team.
Maloney said the team has built a lot of trust between them and it allows them to try new things, change defensive schemes or swap players into new spots. She said the team is all coachable and she owes a lot of that to the leadership from the seniors.
“I can't say enough about this senior class with their talent, but also their leadership and the tone they set for the whole team,” she said.
St. Paul’s next home game will be against Ansonia on Thursday at 6 p.m.