After finishing a disappointing 5-11 this season, Laurel coach Taren Langhorne is eager to start turning things around in 2013.
Langhorne believes that will be within reach, mainly because the Spartans graduated only setter Dani Conway and outside hitter Sankofa Ray.
Laurel's returning players can all take steps to improve, and one way is offseason training. The seventh-year coach expects her players to take up some extracurricular volleyball activities.
"I think many of my players are growing," Langhorne said. "If everything goes as planned with offseason clubs and camps, I will have a strong core for next season."
Four players, junior libero Bilikis Okossi, junior outside hitter Jahaana Chapelle, sophomore middle hitter Teni Sotita and junior setter Bridgette Edman, wasted little time after the season ended Nov. 5 in an effort to begin sharpening their skills.
They tried out for a Maryland Junior Volleyball Club in Jessup Nov. 10.
There's also a tryout next week for the Kinecic Volleyball Club in Lanham.
"I encourage them to try out for those teams so they can be competitive," Langhorne explained. "Even if they don't make it, they can see what it takes. They see the dynamics of volleyball."
Other returning players include sophomore middle hitters Sarah Onwudiachi and Subrirah Henderickson, sophomore outside hitter Jariatu Jambai and sisters Graciel and Milligros Hernandez. Graciel is a freshman libero while her older sibling is a junior opposite hitter. All the returnees are expected to take a hard look at attending volleyball camps next summer.
"I encourage them to look at clubs and camps for their personal growth," Langhorne said. "They would be touching the volleyball. You just want to keep up the basics. It's hard just to play only during the season."
The Spartans had mixed results in the playoffs, starting with a standout performance Nov. 1 when the eighth-seeded Spartans cruised past ninth-seed Suitland, 25-8, 25-8, 25-16, in a Class 4A South Region first-round match in Laurel.
They received fine efforts from Brown (11 kills, 3 blocks), Edman (8 aces) and Conway, who served seven straight points in the first set.
"I thought the girls did really well and were aggressive," said Langhorne, who had her first child on Aug. 29, but resumed coaching duties with the Spartans just three weeks later. "They were able to come together. They were able to run the court with minimal coaching. I just pretty much sat back and watched."
Unfortunately for the Spartans, their season ended four days later with an 8-25, 8-25, 16-25 loss to senior-laden Eleanor Roosevelt (16-0) in a quarterfinal match in Greenbelt. The Raiders, who swept Laurel twice during the regular season, won two more matches before facing Arundel in a state semifinal Nov. 15.
Brown (6 blocks) shined for Laurel and Conway served four points in the second set.
"I always enjoying watching them," Langhorne said of Eleanor Roosevelt. "I love their consistency. Their passing, setting and spiking is very consistent."
"I think it was natural for us to have butterflies since it was the playoffs," she added, alluding to her team's pre-match jitters. "It's like bittersweet. There's a chance after the match, the season will be over."