Young Lady Cavaliers ready to press on

Published 10:06pm Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Lakeland High School girls’ volleyball team is looking for brighter horizons this season after a 2012 that held little reason to celebrate.

Last year, the Lady Cavaliers went 0-20. They lost five players from that team coming into this year, which will feature a very young and inexperienced squad.

Lakeland High School senior opposite hitter Kristen Walden participates during practice on Tuesday. While the Lady Cavaliers have started the season 0-2, they are gearing up for their upcoming conference schedule, with no intentions of repeating last year’s winless campaign.
Lakeland High School senior opposite hitter Kristen Walden participates during practice on Tuesday. While the Lady Cavaliers have started the season 0-2, they are gearing up for their upcoming conference schedule, with no intentions of repeating last year’s winless campaign.

Though out of the 10 players on the team there are again five seniors, the number is somewhat deceiving as a reference point for experience.

“I’ve got one senior that’s never played before,” said Lakeland head coach Tarijuana Napoleon, who returns this year in an effort to turn things around.

The remainder of the team includes two juniors, two freshmen and one sophomore. Five players on the team have experience in the range of one year or less.

Napoleon has a simple expectation for her players this year. “I just want to be able to get them to a level where we can compete,” she said.

Lakeland is currently 0-2 this season with losses to Great Bridge High School and Indian River High School, but the season has barely begun.

Like all Suffolk public high school sports teams, the Lady Cavs will be affected by the Virginia High School League’s realignment. Lakeland is now part of a new conference and region filled only with schools of like size.

When asked for her perspective on it, Napoleon simply evaluated the change in terms of her team, saying, “It’ll be more people that are on our level.”

Included in the conference are Denbigh High School, Heritage High School, Phoebus High School, King’s Fork High School and Nansemond River High School.

The games against the non-Suffolk schools will not begin until October, and Napoleon has them in mind as Lakeland still faces its usual roster of district opponents in August and September.

“We’re using the Southeastern District teams to get ready,” she said.

Two players Napoleon is looking to for leadership are seniors Logan Reid and Sarah Bowyer.

Both players spoke to their role as leaders, as Bowyer said they are available to help the younger players, any time.

Reid said, “We have to teach them the game,” and she said they need to step up at the same time.

Of Reid, Napoleon said, “She brings a lot of energy. She brings a lot of experience; she’s been playing for the last five years. She brings a lot of discipline, and she wants to win.”

“I recently changed positions,” said Reid, now an outside hitter. In terms of her personal goals, she said, “Now all I do is I want to get all the blocks and all the kills I can.”

Bowyer has also made the move to outside hitter, and she will also be a back row player.

She played setter for the team last year. She said, “Since this is my senior year, I want to go out with a bang and get all the kills I can.”

“She’s a go-getter,” Napoleon said, praising Bowyer’s tenacity on defense. “She’ll break her neck to get a ball. She’s very aggressive, and she definitely wants to win.”

Napoleon said for the team to succeed this year, it must overcome its inexperience, and it needs to get on the same page with her by learning the way she does things.

After a no-win season, she set an ambitious goal for this year. “I want to at least split the new conference,” she said, alluding to a .500 record.

The Lady Cavaliers (0-2, 0-0) play on Thursday at Oscar Smith High School.

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