The North Laurel Lady Jaguars will be led by a new coach this season who is hoping to instill a new way of volleyball into every girl that steps foot into that gym wearing a blue and green jersey.
Cary Clark was named the head coach of the North Laurel volleyball team in May, and since then, his Lady Jaguars have been hard at work all summer long learning what Clark hopes will be a new “volleyball culture” at North Laurel High School.
“More than anything, I really want to instill into these girls the difference between a volleyball team and a volleyball culture,” Clark said. “I want them to understand what it’s like to be a part of a program that’s more than just a team where each year you’re walking in and when you come in it’s not ‘well, this is the group we have this year, this is how we’re playing.’ And it’s more of a ‘this is the style of volleyball that North Laurel High School plays.’ So, any school that plays us is going to know this is what they’re in for every time they play us.”
To do that, Clark said he’s teaching every grade level the same style of play from the freshmen to the seniors.
“So, when we lose five seniors this year, we’ll have girls ready to step up from the JV program and be ready to play — rather than starting over each year,” he said.
Clark said that so far this summer he has been teaching his players a new style of volleyball that is much different than what they’re accustomed to playing.
“The style of volleyball that I’m used to coaching and that they’re used to playing is a little bit different,” he said. “But the girls have been extremely energetic and receptive and have tried to absorb as much stuff as possible, as quickly as possible.”
Clark said that in addition to learning more about his players this summer, he has also been trying to familiarize himself with the region, as he spent the last six years coaching in Region 8 at Martha Layne Collins High School.
Clark said he currently only has 10 girls on his varsity roster, with four seniors expected to lead the squad until one senior is able to return from an injury later in the season.
“Initially, I’m taking a small group for my varsity,” he said. “I don’t put a lot of kids on my varsity bench or roster, I add kids throughout the season as I see how they progress and how they may or may not be able to help the team out. It’s a small group but it’s the right group.”
Looking ahead at the upcoming season’s schedule, Clark said it is generally the same schedule the Lady Jaguars are used to playing each season but he has hopes of changing it up for the future of the program.
“My goal moving forward would be to introduce the girls to other regions and take them to other areas of the state,” he said. “Whether it’s adding some weekend tournaments in locations we’ve never gone to before or continuing to find camps and playing against teams that we haven’t really seen in the past.”
North Laurel posted a 22-13 record last season while capturing the second straight 49th District championship, and Clark said he certainly has plans to continue that tradition but also hopes to see his Lady Jaguars compete in the 13th Region tournament this season, as well.
“I would definitely look to try to compete in the region and see if we can get that championship game in the region within the next year or two,” he said. “I think that expecting us to compete in our district and region are not unreasonable expectations. Those are definitely on our radar and something we want to make sure that throughout the season we’re focusing on, so that way when we get into games in the district and region, we’re prepared to play those teams and compete and hold our own.”