SPARTA Having trouble making new friends? If you ask Pope John star volleyball player Laura Maurer for some advice she will probably tell you to pick up a ball and hit the court. As a sophomore in high school, the 5-foot-10 outside hitter moved across the country with her family from San Francisco to Sparta leaving all of her friends behind. Except one, her volleyball. But there was one problem. Her family wanted her to attend Pope John because of its smaller size and "good reputation". So what's the problem? The school had no volleyball team. So Maurer joined a club team in Denville, that according to her mother consumed over 20 hours a week, six months a year. "I met my best friend there," said Maurer, from her Sparta home. "I think it helped me make the transition from moving across the country." Three years later, she has some full circle. The Lions have just finished their first volleyball season that she helped create. They even finished with a winning record, making the post season under coach Mia Gavan. However, the real gem was Maurer. She was named first-team all state, The Sussex/Morris County Player of the Year, team MVP, and All-Area. "I was very surprised about all-state because of our record," said Maurer. "Usually to be all-state your team has to have a better record." She credits a win over powerhouse Fort Lee when the state started to take notice. "We lost the first game pretty bad," she recalled. They are one of the better teams around and we fought back and beat them." Did we mention she's smart too? She managed to maintain a grade point average over 4.0 while at Pope John. Despite all that, Maurer wasn't sure if she would get a chance to play college volleyball because her first two seasons at Pope John they didn't have a team. "I was getting nervous," she said. "Going through the recruiting process coaches were overlooking me because my school didn't have team." That's when her parents petitioned the school to start a program. This sparked interest in other students and the program was born. It's a good thing they listened. She plans to play collegiate volleyball in the fall for Division III Washington and Lee University, in Virginia. She isn't resting with the high school season over. Her Meridian Valley club team has started to practice with games on the horizon. Ironically, one of her clun teams played in a tournament last year in China and the flight had a layover in California but she didn't get a chance to visit any of her old friends. "I miss the weather," said Maurer. "It doesn't snow in San Francisco." "We're extremely proud of how hard Laura has worked and are pleased that she was recognized by the NJ volleyball community for her contributions to the sport," said her mother Nancy. Surely, when she moves next year, Maurer won't have any problem making any pals as long as her volleyball is with her.