Boys Volleyball: McFarland brothers meshing on court for Lincoln-Way North
Updated: April 27, 2012 7:21PM
Before they became teammates this year, on those few occasions where Lincoln-Way North’s Ryan and Brad McFarland found themselves on the volleyball court at the same time, their competitive fire usually got the best of them.
“It’s kind of weird playing together,” said Ryan, a 6-foot senior setter. “Usually, any time we were on the court at the same time, it was my friends and against his friends. We’d be talking smack.”
Who’s better at the trash-talking?
“Definitely me,” Ryan joked. “He’s all talk and no game.”
The smack talking has desisted — for the most part — since younger brother Brad joined the varsity this season and became Lincoln-Way North’s starting outside hitter. The brothers now focus on their play, not their braggadocio.
The results have been impressive. The Phoenix with the McFarlands playing key roles, are off to a 17-2 start, which includes the championship of the Marist tournament and the school’s first-ever win over Sandburg.
Brad McFarland, who was a backup setter on last year’s team, has emerged as the team’s floor general. He focused on developing his leadership skills while playing for Ultimate 18 Blue during the offseason.
“It was great to work with guys like Joe Pognant, who plays middle for us (Lincoln-Way North) but rightside in club, Tony Natalino (Marist), Jason Garnett (Lincoln-Way East, John Johnson (St. Rita), Will Craft (Marian Catholic), Garrett McGarry (Mount Carmel) and Clay Hermann (Lincoln-Way Central),” McFarland said.
“They never let me take a play off,” he added. “They pushed me to reach my full potential.”
Ryan carried those lessons over into the high school season. Even his relationship with his brother improved.
“I set him just as much as I would anyone else,” Ryan said. “I get frustrated with him sometimes, but he’s family. He’s always going to be my younger brother and we’re still going to fight sometimes. But that’s what brothers do.”
Brad McFarland, a 6-1 sophomore outside hitter, also worked hard during the club season on the facets of his game that needed refining if he was going to make the leap to varsity — passing and defense.
“At the beginning of the year, I was really contemplating playing on the varsity level,” Brad said. “I worked really hard during the club season. I knew I had to work on defense and passing if I wanted a chance to be on varsity or even be a starter.”
The chance to play with his older brother was also a motivating factor.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Brad said. “We never played together in club because of our age difference, and it’s unlikely we will ever play together again.’’
Brad McFarland is one of four sophomores playing varsity for Lincoln-Way North. The 14-man roster also includes five juniors. Yet the chemistry between the disparate members of the team has produced undeniably positive results.
“We’re definitely a very tight group,” Ryan said. “If we’re not together at practice, we’re hanging out together after school and on weekends. The other day, we had half the team in our basement watching the Bulls and the Blackhawks.”
Meanwhile, coach Matt Lawrence and the Phoenix are benefitting from the first and probably last pairing of the McFarland brothers.
“I enjoy coaching both of the McFarlands,” Lawrence said. “They’re good guys who are really passionate about playing volleyball. They each add a different dynamic to the team.
“Ryan has improved on his set choices and location throughout his four years and is doing a great job this year,” he added. “Brad has improved on his game a great deal since his freshman year and is an impact player on varsity. That’s impressive for a sophomore to make that big jump and be a go-to guy.”