Shortly after Osbourn Park's lopsided loss to Chancellor in last year's Northwestern Region volleyball tournament semifinal, juniors Chris Batson, Heather Capelli and Megan Wilson sat together in the bleachers.
Rather than cry or hang their heads over the season-ending loss, the three began planning for this season, discussing offseason workout programs and weaknesses to be improved upon.
"I was just thinking that team wasn't that much better than us," said Batson, last year's Cardinal District player of the year. "They were better prepared than us. I would definitely want to leave OP knowing that I played my best possible game."
That discussion and the subsequent improvement have not gone unnoticed by Osbourn Park Coach Dan Jones.
"I'd never heard that level of determination and dedication from players that quickly after a loss," Jones said. "And then it's one thing to say it, but it's another to actually do it, and that's what they did."
Osbourn Park's players had no reason to be ashamed of their 1998 season. The Yellow Jackets finished 19-4 and won the Cardinal District regular season and tournament titles. Chancellor, the team that ended their season, went on to reach the Virginia AAA state tournament semifinals.
And at the heart of Osbourn Park's success the past couple of seasons has been the trio of Batson, Capelli and Wilson.
For nine months of the year, the three are together on a volleyball court. From August to November, they form a potent front row for Osbourn Park--Capelli is the team's setter, and Batson and Wilson are the outside hitters. When the high school season ends, they take their act to the NOVA Galaxy club team until May.
What has resulted from three years of training together is both improved individual skills for each player and a familiarity with the others that have made for one of the best front lines in the area.
"They are probably the best trio in the district at their positions," said Osbourn Coach Mike Byers. Batson and Wilson "are probably the two best outside hitters in the district now, and [Capelli] is probably the best setter now and the best setter ever to go through the district."
Although Batson, Capelli and Wilson form a cohesive group on the floor, they each approach the game a different way. Capelli is a vocal floor leader who scraps after every ball. Batson is an intense, powerful hitter, and Wilson takes advantage of an impressive jumping ability to direct spikes in all directions.
"There's no denying that they are the nucleus of the team," Jones said. "Seldom have I had three people of this caliber for three years. . . . They ooze with experience."
A summer full of volleyball camps for Capelli and near-daily gym workouts for Batson and Wilson have only helped raise expectations for Osbourn Park, which is ranked third in The Post's preseason poll.
A rematch with Chancellor isn't possible because the Fredericksburg school dropped to the AA Battlefield District, which plays a winter schedule. Their absence is no relief to the Osbourn Park players.
"If you'd asked me last November, I'd have probably been ecstatic," Wilson said. "But now, with the way we have been playing in practice, I'd like to say, 'Bring it on Chancellor,' and see what we can do."
CAPTION: Osbourn Park's Chris Batson, above, and Megan Wilson, below, serve as the team's outside hitters to form part of a power trio on the front line.
CAPTION: Heather Capelli, considered the district's best setter, is Osbourn Park's vocal, scrappy player.