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MAROA — Maroa-Forsyth libero Annelise Sparks has faith in the process. 

She, along with her Trojans’ volleyball teammates, have bought into goals put forward by first-year coach Mallory White.

Gone are the typical goals of making it to sectionals or maybe a run to state. Instead, the team is focused on the more immediate moments in each practice and game.

"We have a goal obviously to win, but we want to be more consistent since we have a lot of newcomers," White said. "We want to be more consistent and have more control.

"Right now I think they are still learning to play with each other since they weren’t all together last year. That’s our main goal, consistency and control."

The Trojans graduated seven seniors, including outside hitters Sydney White and Kate Beckemeyer, and H&R Macon County Player of the Year Carly Mason, who is now setting for Belmont University. Maroa has nine new players on its varsity roster, but the group is mostly juniors and seniors who have been waiting their turn.

"They all earned it this summer," White said. "It’s a fun group of girls and it is a great group to coach my first year with."

Sparks and the other captains, middle hitter Reese Bobitt and setter Maggie Huffman, are leading the new mindset. 

"Our motto this season is: Trust the process," Sparks said. "Everyday it is a process and you have to kind of wait it out and know it will work itself out in the end, like getting to state and winning the big games.

"This year our goal as a team has been made to be more short term. Things like you do everyday in practice, things that you can do for the week, things that you can do to make yourself a better person daily."

The change has been noticeable and the results favorable — the Trojans have started their season 4-0.  

"The most interesting part is probably our shift in mindset," Sparks said. "We had a long discussion with the whole team and with varsity by ourselves about those goals and daily expectations, weekly expectations. I think that that is very helpful and it makes so much easier to be more present at daily practices and games."

Another key to the hot start has been Sparks' play in the back row. A libero, Sparks recorded 42 digs against Illini Central and 31 against Argenta-Oreana. 

"(Annelise) is all over the court. She plays almost everything," White said. "She’s a smart player and I think she really gets the team fired up. The back court is hers. She’s in charge of the back row and she’s talking the most. If the ball is missed, it might not always be her mistake, but she is the one that takes responsibility for it."

Sparks thrives on the responsibility and she can feel her game reaching another level this season. 

"I definitely play better under pressure," Sparks said. "I like to feel in control and help people. It is a nice feeling, I guess. I definitely feel like it is good this year.

"This year of (Illini Elite) club was pretty influential on my play. Just me as a person, over this year I feel like I have changed a lot and as a player I have become more aggressive and more in tune with what my body is doing and what the ball is doing."

Sparks credited her time with the Illini Elite in preparing her for her next stop beyond high school, playing libero for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.  

"It has completely transformed me as a player and a person," she said. "It has been a huge part of my life, it is all I do pretty much — play volleyball."

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Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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