There are some numbers almost all coaches are reluctant to talk about before a season begins.

In some ways, Christian Heritage School volleyball coach Julie Norton is no different — she isn’t going to make any predictions about what her team’s win-loss record might be this year, for instance. But there are a few established figures she’s happy to mention.

It’s season number four with Norton in charge of the program. She has 12 girls on her varsity roster, the most since she took over. And she feels like her players are “about 300 steps ahead of where they were” compared to the same point in 2004, when she first took the reins.

“We’re sort of building,” said Norton, who led the Lady Lions to a district title and an appearance in the Tennessee Association of Christian Schools state tournament in 2006. “After last year’s great season, I feel like a little more interest was developed and we had some more people seeing what was going on with the volleyball team.”

CHS went 20-9 last fall, winning 16 more games than it had the previous season. Norton credited that success to the maturity of last year’s lineup, which impressed her early in the schedule by keeping pace at a public school tournament in Knoxville.

“Going into the season, I was cautiously optimistic, because I felt like it was a time when I didn’t necessarily have to teach the skills,” she said. “We could work more on team drills instead of individual skills and they had a lot more knowledge of the game.”

Despite a roster stocked mostly with underclassmen — she has five freshman and three sophomores to go with two juniors and a pair of seniors — Norton is confident that she won’t be forced to slow the program’s progress this year. And while about a third of her roster is new to competitive volleyball, Norton believes those who are returning haven’t lost what they gained in 2006.

“The first day of practice, with some of our skills it looked like we hadn’t stepped off the court at all,” Norton said.

The coach will be helped by the return of outside hitter Maya Kostic, who is from Serbia but will attend CHS for a second straight year, and defensive specialist Margaret Mosteller. Those seniors, as well as junior middle hitter Tori Malerbi and freshman setter Katie Beth White — who was able to hold her own as an eighth-grader playing varsity last year — will be leading the way.

“I think we’ve got a great deal of potential,” Norton said. “As far as our record, I can’t speak because I don’t know much about our competition. But looking at just my team, I’m very pleased.”

There will be some mystery to this season, which opens on Aug. 20 at Shiloh Hills Christian Academy in Kennesaw. Part of the uncertainty comes from the team’s entry into Georgia Independent School Association competition, along with most other sports at CHS.

The Lady Lions will play in Region 1 — GISA has only one class for volleyball — which includes Atlanta Girls School, Dominion Christian, Holy Spirit Prep, Mt. Vernon Presbyterian, North Cobb Christian and Weber.

And after competing in a TACS district that included just one other team, Norton said she thinks the Lady Lions will be better challenged throughout the season by playing in the GISA.

Another mystery could come from Norton’s lineup.

The coach said she prefers to let players try several positions and gain broad experience on the court, and also believes effort should be rewarded when it comes time to decide who should start.

“If I see someone working harder who doesn’t necessarily have better skills,” Norton said, “I’m willing to put somebody out there who will go after the ball.”

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