Small Cavs, solid expectations

Published 10:09 pm Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Lakeland High School boys’ volleyball team is young and sports few members, but its new coach is confident it can make a significant impact in its new conference.

Lakeland High School sophomore middle hitter Hunter Rawls launches a hit during a recent practice and is expected to be a leader for the Cavaliers this season.

Lakeland High School sophomore middle hitter Hunter Rawls launches a hit during a recent practice and is expected to be a leader for the Cavaliers this season.

The Cavaliers’ new coach, Tarijuana Napoleon, is not new to Lakeland volleyball. She coached the Lady Cavaliers for three years before making the switch.

“The opening came up, and I wanted a change,” she said. “I wanted more of a challenge, so I decided to take on the boys.”

Email newsletter signup

Lakeland visited King’s Fork High School on Tuesday evening and put up a fight but lost 24-26, 18-25, 20-25.

The Cavaliers are 1-5, but Napoleon noted, “They’re a young team; I don’t have any seniors.”

The team misses some graduates from last year’s team, including Irvin Ashburn, an all-conference first team selection, and Wesley Arrington and Kenyon Strickland, all-conference second team selections.

Though the 2014 Cavaliers had some standouts, they struggled as a team and faltered in the postseason.

This year, the squad includes only nine players — three juniors and six underclassmen.

Napoleon acknowledged that boys’ interest in the volleyball program is low right now, but she said, “I’m trying to get some more interest from some of the basketball team, but that’s going to take a while to try to build up.”

She anticipates this year’s group achieving some success.

“I expect to win the conference, because we, of course, dropped down to 3A,” she said, and in Lakeland’s new conference, only Phoebus, I.C. Norcom and Booker T. Washington high schools have teams.

Tabb and York high schools, the other schools making up Conference 27, do not field boys’ volleyball squads.

The drop to the Virginia High School League’s Group 3A classification is a recognition of Lakeland’s smaller student body, and now it will face more similarly-sized opponents.

Napoleon noted the Cavs are competing with the 4A and 5A schools still on their schedule, which shows they should have a good chance against 3A competition.

Leading the way for the Cavaliers this year are sophomore middle hitters Josh Bennett and Hunter Rawls.

Rawls recorded 15 kills against Deep Creek High School, and was not intimidated by two of the better Southeastern District forces, Western Branch and Great Bridge high schools.

“He did really well against them, really surprised me, so that’s why I’m looking for him to step up,” Napoleon said. As for Bennett, “He’s trying to compete with Hunter, so he’s stepping up his game, as well, and trying to show what he has.”

The coach noted junior Kyle Stuart is the best setter on the team, and freshman Marvin Rubothin plays the position, as well, showing promise as a first-year player.

Sophomore Tyler Treat will see increased playing time this year, serving as the Cavaliers’ libero.

Lakeland hosts Hickory High School on Thursday evening.