When the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association merged the A and B Conferences for this fall in boys volleyball, longtime Boys' Latin coach Drew Haugh rejected the idea.
Haugh feared his Lakers would be overmatched against the league's elite teams.
"We fought having to combine conferences," Haugh said. "We didn't want to do it. We didn't think we could compete with the best on a regular basis."
But deep into the regular season, Haugh changed his tune.
Victories over Loyola Blakefield and Gilman in five sets in early October convinced the coach. The Lakers had lost to Loyola in five and Gilman in four in September.
Now, Haugh thinks the Lakers (9-3) can capture the A Conference title. That's the last thing he had on his mind entering the season.
"We think we can win the A Conference," Haugh said of the Nov. 2 final. "When we starting winning, we were like, 'We can compete with those guys.' We cut down on the number of players we have. We didn't keep as many kids as we have in the past. We just have a better chemistry and the talent to go with it."
Senior opposite hitter Austin Brown says the Lakers have to get on a roll heading into the postseason.
"We are probably the most athletic team in the whole conference," Brown explained. "We are not all volleyball players, but we are pretty athletic and if we just get it going, I don't know who can stop us."
Cousins Blair and Jordan Brooks have been difficult for opponents to stop.
The 6-foot-3 Jordan, a senior, starts at middle hitter, and the 6-foot-2 Blair, a junior, also plays middle hitter.
Both earned starting positions as the season moved along because they are first-year volleyball players who are members of the basketball team.
Blair (62) ranks second on the team in kills behind senior defensive specialist Luke Klutz. Brooks, Klutz, Drew's son Colton Haugh, a junior defensive specialist, junior outside hitter Joe Santangelo and junior setter Avery Engel also start.
"I think they give us a dynamic to compete in the A Conference because they are two of most athletic kids in the league," Haugh said of the cousins. "We are showing stuff that some teams haven't seen the first time around because both are just starting to figure it out."
Haugh can thank Boys' Latin coach Cliff Rees for the Brooks cousins joining his team.
They gave the Lakers the best size Haugh has had in 16 years on the job.
"Last year, our basketball coach watched our championship game against St. Paul's," the coach said. "He saw the basketball players St. Paul's had that took over at the end. Later he said to the cousins, 'You guys are going to play volleyball.'"
Boys' Latin is also getting significant contributions from senior libero Jack Metzger. He ranks among the team leaders in assists (193) and digs (122).
"Jack is without question the best libero in the league," Drew Haugh said. "I can't think of a better libero I have had."
The Lakers' victory over Archbishop Spalding on Oct. 16 may be another example of their improvement. Boys' Latin prevailed 25-18, 25-20, 25-12.
The Lakers had a harder time beating Spalding when the two teams clashed in Severn on Sept. 20.
"The first time we played that team down there, we had to struggle to beat them," Haugh said of the sweep.
Spalding coach Sean Walsh believes Boys' Latin can make a run at a championship.
"I would argue this is the best BL team I have seen," he said. "They went undefeated in the B Conference (in 2010), but this team is better."