Academy of the Holy Names is 3-5, but it appeared a lot better than that Tuesday against Berkeley Prep.
Sure, the Jaguars lost again _ 15-7, 13-15, 15-8, 15-5 _ but you must remember that Berkeley is a three-time defending state champion, and there is no reason to believe it won't add a fourth title this season.
As far as Academy goes, it was just another step in a battle to get better: a battle against a very tough schedule. Even this early in the season, four of Academy's losses have come against final four contenders Durant, Plant, Clearwater and Berkeley. The Jaguars' first loss was in the season opener against Osceola.
"But man, if you saw us at the beginning of the year and compared it to now, you'd say, "Holy mackerel! They're a lot better,' " said first-year Academy coach Doug Chinchar, who came over from Gaither. "I'd say we're accomplishing our goal of getting better every match."
A big boost to the Jaguars' cause is Lakewood senior transfer Lora Moncrief, who played her first match for Academy during Saturday's loss to Durant.
But Moncrief's solid play wasn't nearly enough to overcome Berkeley, which doesn't have a senior on the roster but is still loaded with talent.
The Bucs (7-0) were led Tuesday by freshman outside hitter Sarah Kirkwood, junior setters Christine Gladysz and Lennie Stern and middle hitter Kayla Mora.
Berkeley coach Randy Dagostino said you probably can expect vast improvement from that group during the next month and especially through the next year _ an outlook Chinchar hopes to emulate sooner than later.
"Berkeley is a machine," Chinchar said. "By the time these girls get to the varsity, they know exactly what to do. That's what we want. We want to build a stronger middle school and junior varsity program so we can get on the same page as Berkeley."