The Era Lady Hornets came very close to a state tournament berth last season. However, state powerhouse Martin’s Mill has bested Era in the playoffs the past three seasons.

The Lady Hornets haven’t forgotten.

Many players are returning from last season’s squad, including last year’s District 11-2A MVP Briana Knabe.

Era head coach Don Neu said the summer has only added fuel to the Lady Hornets’ fire, but the Lady Hornets aren’t getting too ahead of themselves.

“it’s been very good and very positive summer,” Neu said. “We’re graduating a lot of good players this year, but I do feel like we have some girls that are coming up that can play and continue to get better. So I’m excited. I’m very excited. We’re taking one year at a time.”

Neu said he has encouraged the players to coach themselves during the summer, which is even more important to Era since they normally just have enough players to play with a full team at five.

“I’m just happy they’re on the floor, trying to get better and that kind of thing,” Neu said. “I let them coach themselves in summer because I like to watch them interact with each other. And as a coach, it makes you feel good when they run stuff that you call. I like to watch them do that, because it tells me a lot about the kids and it also tells me about who the leaders are.”

Neu said he intentionally doesn’t try to install new plays during the summer so as not to overcomplicate the game for them.

In their most recent playoff defeat, the Lady Hornets fell by just three points to Martin’s Mill — the eventual state champion — so Neu knows the team is still capable of making another deep run.

“My guards are playing really well,” Neu said. “We’re not very big, so we’re gonna have to play small and quick. I’m very, very excited. They all have a great attitude. I mean, from my best player to the bench players, they’re all in this as a group. I’ve got a bunch of seniors, so this group has played together, they know each other and I’m pretty excited about what they could accomplish.”

Neu said the next few weeks of tournaments and workouts would be crucial for the team’s preparation for the season.

“I want to see them finish it strong and continue to get better and keep working,” Neu said. “And then after that, I want to see him finish up Hornet camp and I want to see them have a week off and kind of get ready for things to start getting crazy because we may not play any fall ball.”

Patrick Hayslip can be reached at sports@gainesvilleregister.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip