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Improved Bruins Feel Like a Contender

Lake Braddock volleyball team is ranked No. 10 in the region.

Catherine Jamshidi gave the Lake Braddock volleyball team an early lead with back-to-back kills in the first game of an Oct. 4 home match against West Potomac. Moments later, the junior showed off her serving talents with an ace.

It doesn’t take long for onlookers to realize Lake Braddock is loaded with size — six players listed at 5-feet-10 or taller — and athleticism. The Bruins have several imposing players who can consistently put away kills. On this night, it was Jamshidi who led Lake Braddock with eight kills during a 3-0 (25-15, 25-11, 25-18) victory. While the middle blocker shined against the Wolverines, it’s been the maturation of multiple Bruins that’s elevated expectations around the program.

Erin Clark took over as head coach in 2007 with her husband, Mike Clark, as an assistant. For three seasons, the Bruins were mediocre at best, and in 2008 the team won only three matches. But after taking their lumps, the 2010 team has the look of a contender. The win over West Potomac improved Lake Braddock’s record to 9-3, including 1-1 in the Patriot District. Each of the Bruins’ losses was a five-set match against a team ranked in the top 10 or receiving votes in the Northern Region Volleyball Coaches Association top-10 poll (Hayfield, Woodson, Robinson). Lake Braddock won the Richmond Invitational, the Oakton Invitational and is ranked No. 10 in the region.

"We kind of feel like our program has arrived," said Mike Clark, who took over head coaching duties while Erin Clark took a year off from her teaching job to focus on the couple’s newborn son. "We’ve always been a team that’s just been trying to be near the top of the bottom feeders. Now we’re fighting with the top of the big dogs. We’re trying to fight with South County and Robinson and those teams. It’s a challenge for us, but we’ve just stepped it up so much that it’s been a good experience."

The 6-foot Jamshidi set the tone early against West Potomac with five kills in game one.

"She’s just a fiery athlete," Mike Clark said. "She gets in there and makes big plays. She’s a little bit younger, so she’s not quite as consistent, but she’s such a good athlete that she really makes some outstanding plays and really gives us that "wow" factor every now and then."

Jamshidi said the Bruins communicate well.

"After every set we try to tell each other what to do better," she said. "It’s a lot better [this season]. We’re working better as a team."

Senior middle blocker Logan Russell (6-0) finished with seven kills against West Potomac. Russell was named MVP of the Oakton Invitational.

"Logan is one of the most under-appreciated players in this area," Clark said. "She plays middle blocker, which is a really important position. The team can really play defense around her, but you don’t [notice her impact]. She sets a really nice block for us and it allows our defense to make plays more easily.

"She also is really, really smart. She has a really good volleyball IQ, so she makes really smart volleyball plays when we need them. She tips really well, she hits well, she’s just a very solid all-around player that’s very unassuming."

Senior outside hitter Tara Fialkow (5-9) is also a key contributor.

"She’s just an all-around-scrappy, gets-after-the-ball, gets-on-the-floor, does-everything-for-you kind of girl," Clark said.

Lake Braddock’s youngest player, sophomore Kyra Rodi, might have the brightest future. Rodi is in her first season playing setter in Lake Braddock’s 6-2 offense. Formerly a middle blocker, the 6-foot Rodi sets from the back row but is able to use her hitting skills at the net. She recorded seven kills against West Potomac.

"We’re really having her do something that’s out of her general nature," Clark said. "She’s that good that she can still look like she’s really a good player even though we’re asking her to do something that she’s just kind of coming in to."

Lake Braddock will travel to face Washington-Lee on Oct. 12, at 7:15 p.m. The Bruins return to district competition on Oct. 14 against South County, ranked No. 2 in the region.