Village News Reporter
Both of Potter Junior High School’s girls volleyball teams reached the league championship match Nov. 9.
Although formally called the varsity and junior varsity teams, the Potter eighth-graders comprised the varsity squad while the seventh-grade girls played at the junior varsity level. Madison Middle School of Oceanside also reached the finals at both levels and, in both matches, Madison defeated the Braves two games to none.
“They both fought really hard,” said Potter coach Heather Laird.
Laird was raised in Lake Elsinore and played volleyball and basketball for Elsinore High School. She also played both sports at La Sierra University in Riverside. Laird has lived in Fallbrook since 2016.
One of Laird’s daughters is currently in eighth grade and was on the Potter eighth-grade team this year and the seventh-grade team last year. (Her other children are currently 7 and 4.)
Potter’s athletic programs are sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club of North County but funded by the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District. Frank Tabarez, who is involved with the Boys and Girls Club of North County, is Potter’s athletic director.
“He asked if I wanted to coach,” Laird said.
Laird coached Potter’s eighth-grade and seventh-grade girls volleyball teams for 2022. Girls basketball is a spring sport for the middle school league, and Laird also coached the Braves’ varsity and junior varsity girls basketball teams in spring 2023.
“I basically just volunteered my help and then I ended up coaching full-time,” Laird said.
Both Potter volleyball teams won the championship in 2022. At both levels, the Braves defeated Vista Magnet in the final.
This year, Potter had 13 eighth-graders on the varsity team and 14 seventh-graders on the junior varsity team. The league consists of Potter, Guajome Park Academy in Oceanside, Madison, Roosevelt Middle School in Oceanside, Vista Innovation and Design Academy, and Vista Magnet. Each team played each other team at that level twice during the regular season.
The junior varsity Braves won all 10 regular-season games. “They rose to the occasion,” Laird said.
“They were unbelievable as far as coming together as a team,” Laird said. “Next year is going to be a really good year for them.”
Next year, many of the current eighth-grade players will likely be part of the Fallbrook High School program. The varsity Braves had an 8-2 record, splitting their matches with Madison and with Vista Magnet. Madison and Vista Magnet split their matches against each other, so those teams also had 8-2 records for the regular season and Potter, Madison, and Vista Magnet were tri-champions for the regular season.
“I want to say how proud I am of their growth,” Laird said. “They’ve really just grown as athletes. They’ve improved so much.”
The league playoffs began Nov. 6. Potter defeated Roosevelt that day. Vista Design Academy forfeited the Sharks’ Nov. 7 match against Potter, which advanced the Braves to the finals. The Madison wins in both finals gave the Mustangs both of this year’s championships.
“They all ended up being great matchups,” Laird said.