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Senior Natalie Ford has been instrumental in helping the Central Valley Bears to state tournaments in volleyball and softball. (Liz Kishimoto)

Ford provides extra spark for Central Valley

Central Valley’s volleyball and softball teams have qualified for state tournaments a combined five times.

Senior Natalie Ford has been on three of those teams.

“Both (sports) take a lot of team connection, everyone doing their jobs,” Ford said. “I love different things about both of them. You learn to love the sport that’s in season.”

Volleyball is in season now for Ford and her Bears, who will travel to University tonight in a key Greater Spokane League match. CV, U-Hi and Mead are tied for first place with 3-0 records. Shadle Park and Ferris are one game back in the competitive GSL.

Central Valley’s ultimate goal is to advance to the State 4A tournament for the second time.

Ford was a sophomore when the Bears finally broke through in 2011.

“If we keep with the team chemistry and hard work, I think we can make some noise at state,” said Ford, the team’s libero.

The Bears are a young team under the direction of first-year coach Amanda Bailey.

Ford and fellow co-captain Alaina Gentili, a middle hitter, are the only seniors on the team.

“We try to bring the team together on the court and just be positive on the court,” said Ford, who was a defensive specialist last season. “If we’re working hard, usually the rest of the team will come with us and work hard.”

Bailey is Ford’s third head coach in four years. Chad Coupland, her coach in 2010, is often credited with establishing CV’s volleyball foundation. Chris Kosty, who is now working for club coaches in town, coached the Bears to state in 2011 and returned last season.

“It’s nice to have someone who’s new and brings fresh perspective to the team,” Ford said of Bailey. “She’s coming in from out of state and doesn’t have any (preconceived) thoughts about any players. We’ve had amazing chemistry since the first day of practice.”

Bailey returns the compliments to Ford.

“(Ford is) a great leader and has been instrumental in arranging team dinners and team bonding activities for our team,” Bailey said. “Her greatest asset to our team is her relentless hustle and work ethic. She never gives up and is always working to improve.”

Once the volleyball season ends, Ford will start training for softball.

She played first base last year as CV qualified for its second consecutive state tournament.

After graduation, Ford, who sports a 3.89 grade-point average, wants to follow three of her sisters by attending Brigham Young University. She plans to study political science or public relations at the Provo, Utah, school.

“I take pretty challenging classes and I’m really active in church,” Ford said.

Ford’s father, Stephen, is an attorney. He played football, basketball and baseball at CV. Mother Trina grew up in Missouri and played volleyball there.

Stephen and Trina have five daughters.