Familiarity is breeding confidence for the girls volleyball team at Bel Air.
The team has four holdover starters from last year when it went 11-3 overall and won an eighth straight Harford County League title before losing to Dundalk in the first round of the regional playoffs.
The returning starters are senior co-captains Jennifer Jankowski and Karyn Rorick, senior Chris Fleckenstein and junior Amy Finlayson, complemented by a pair who saw regular playing time a year ago, junior Jaime Kocher and sophomore Cara Asalita.
Jankowski and Rorick grew up playing volleyball elsewhere -- both come from Indiana. Jankowski has been in this area now the past three years and Rorick the past five. Each is also a product of the U.S. Volleyball Association's Junior Olympic program, playing for a Perry Hall team in the winter.
This provides a more competitive, high-powered level of play, enabling both players to learn more technical styles.
"It helps us, but the success of our team is built around working together," Rorick, a setter, said. "We understand each other, know where each other is on the floor, and sometimes, without even talking, we just know teammates will be in certain spots."
To which Jankowski added, "We're playing with more confidence and have more desire this year, and this has made us stronger."
Bel Air (9-2, 5-1) started with six straight wins, lost to C. Milton Wright in a league match -- 16-14 in the fifth game, the reverse of last year when Bel Air won 16-14 in the fifth -- and was "flat" in a non-league game at Elkton, winning the first game, then losing three in a row.
Next is a league game Tuesday against Aberdeen and a Thursday rematch at C. Milton Wright (10-0, 7-0), one that does not count in the league standings, but may have playoff implications.
The latest Baltimore Sun poll has Wright eighth and Bel Air unranked but one of two "others receiving votes," after having been No. 10 last week. Each is under consideration for the regionals.
"We won't look past Aberdeen, and we won't see C. Milton Wright as a vendetta. Either team could have won that first one," Rorick said. "We'll just go in with as much -- or more -- intensity as before and use what we know about them. We won't be over-psyched, though."
To which Jankowski, a 5-foot-9 hitter, who also plays basketball and lacrosse for the Bobcats, added, "We went five games with Loch Raven [in handing the No. 7 Raiders their only loss] and the one with C. Milton went about two hours. You go in with good intensity, but it is tough to stay high for so long. I know I was dragging the day after that one."
Overall, coach Connie Hassett has fashioned another typical Bel Air team -- fundamentally sound with good team balance.
"If I had to point out one thing, I'd say our passing game has come a long way since the start of the season," Hassett said.
One of the team's preseason goals was to make it back to the regionals, and the players are confident they can make more of an impact this time.