Lafayette volleyball coach Chris Langston knew coming into this season that his young, inexperienced Generals would need time to find their stride.
They took a step in that direction with a 25-18, 25-15, 25-17 sweep of host Bryan Station on Thursday night.
"We needed this, to come out, play hard, really compete and have fun," Langston said.
That fun was evident by the Lafayette players' smiles.
"We've definitely made a lot of improvement," Alyssa Hampton said. "Our defense is our strong point right now. Our offense needs the most work, but we'll get there."
As the only senior on a team that uses several freshmen in its rotation, Hampton said she feels "like a mother to them, but at the same time we're best friends."
Langston likes the way Hampton has handled it.
"It's a tough situation for her. She can't be too hard on the younger players because they're learning their way. So she's doing it with kid gloves.
"A couple of juniors — Bridget Downs and Kelsey Hanley — have stepped in and are giving us some leadership, too."
Sophomore libero Keyton Kinley knows what the freshmen are going through. She was in their spot last year.
"They're really timid and nervous right now, and I can give them firsthand experience about that," she said. "It is pretty scary, but knowing people have your back out there is a good feeling."
Allie King, a junior setter, had a solid game against Bryan Station, giving Megan Pauley and Aisha Conwell lots of kill opportunities.
"The best thing about this team is they're all working really hard," Langston said. "But we're so inexperienced, we're still figuring out how to play.
"It's tough because you want them to hurry up, but they're young, and it's just going to take time."
The Generals played well at crunch time Thursday night. They scored the last four points to blunt a Bryan Station rally to win the first game. They blitzed the Defenders 12-3 down the stretch during the second game. And they maintained a comfortable margin in the decisive third game.
Even though Lafayette never trailed in beating Bryan Station for the 14th time in a row since 2004, Langston said he could see marked improvement by Bonnie Bollmer's Defenders.
"They made it tough on us," he said. "Their libero (Venus Ross) was flying all over the place and made it hard to get points. (Tyran Chenault) played well, and (Lexi Richardson) did a good job. You could tell she was a calming influence for them."
Jeanice Boyd and Jinger Maggard also made plays for the Defenders.
Bollmer thought Shelby McLean, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last season as a freshman, continued to make strong strides in her comeback.
"Overall, we've improved a lot," Bollmer said. "I see a lot of potential with a lot of our girls. We just have to keep working at it."