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For the last three years, Shalom Christian's girls volleyball team has gotten pretty comfortable at the top.

And a lot of that can be credited to Flames coach Katie Gantz, who has led the team to three straight Mason-Dixon Christian Conference championship matches.

Although Heritage has been the Flames' Achilles heel for the past two seasons, Gantz has still managed a 46-10 record at Shalom, and she is the Public Opinion Girls Volleyball Coach of the Year.

"Culture is so key," Gantz said. "You really want to foster that positive team attitude and culture, and that's what I really try to aspire toward. If you're playing well and feeling good about what you're doing on the court, I think everybody can come together as a team and have fun."

Gantz is a longtime volleyball enthusiast. She was born in Hagerstown, Md., and played all four years of high school. Gantz also played club volleyball as a youngster, and was even invited to the Junior Olympics when she was 14.

From there, Gantz moved to Elizabethtown College, where she played four years before graduating in 2012.

"I was one of those players that went where the team needed me," Gantz said. "When I started playing, I had a setting thing going, then I got taller faster, so I became a middle. I bopped around to all of the hitting positions and even played libero for a while during college.

"I think that really helps me as a coach because I know what it feels like to be in all those positions."

Another thing that helps Gantz relate to the girls on her team is the small age gap.

"I think it's a little easier to understand what they're going through," Gantz said. "But really, our whole coaching staff is amazing. There are three other people, and we really see eye-to-eye. Connecting with other coaches really fosters that positive environment."

Gantz said as a coach, it's always been a dream of hers to coach at one of her alma maters, either at the high school or college level. But she also said in her three years at Shalom Christian, she's fallen in love with the school, the team and the community.

The MDCC success probably doesn't hurt, either, but Gantz knows there is more to measuring success than just wins and losses.

"My first year as a head coach, we won the MDCC championship, and I thought, 'Oh no, there's nowhere to go but down,'" Gantz said. "But I don't think success is measured by always making it to that championship. If we have a season that we still feel we were personally successful in, I'm totally OK with that."

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