That’s what the Novi girls volleyball team’s mantra has been during early stages of the 2015 season.
The Wildcats came within an eyelash last year winning their first-ever MHSAA Class A championship before falling to Maryland-bound Gia Milana and Romeo in five grueling and intense sets last November in Battle Creek.
The two teams are ranked No. 1 and 2 again this season and could be on another collision course to meet again at Kellogg Arena.
The Wildcats (55-6-4) return their top three players and have done little to dispel the notion so far this season that they have taken any steps back.
Already off to an 18-0 start, Novi is coming off their third straight tournament victory Friday defeating host Temperance Bedford, a Class A semifinalist from a year ago, 25-15, 25-21, in the finals after knocking off Chelsea, ranked No. 8 in Class B, 25-14, 25-17.
The talented returning trio all did their fair share once against as Area Player of the Year Victoria Iacobelli, a 5-foot-9 senior outside hitter who earned first-team All-State honors, finished the day with a total of 47 kills and 51 digs.
Twin sister Paulina, a second-team All-Stater, racked up 35 kills, 50 digs and 16 aces, while 5-10 sophomore setter Erin O’Leary, an honorable mention All-Stater, contributed 113 assist-to-kills, 22 kills and 26 digs.
Yet another returnee, 6-foot junior right-side hitter Ally Cummings, wound up with 40 kills, 18 digs and 10 aces as the Wildcats went 6-0 on the day.
The return of 5-11 senior setter Christina Hudgens, who broke her thumb at the end of last September and was lost for the season, should give Wildcats fourth-year coach Jen Cottrill and even bigger boost.
White Lake Lakeland, which captured the KLAA North (10-0), Lakes Conference and district, made it all the way to the Division 1 regional finals before losing to Novi.
Eagles fourth-year coach Jean Dukic lost nine seniors to graduation, but returns four veterans led by setters Kaitlyn Hawke and Riley Butcher, along with senior middle hitter Paige Thompson and junior middle hitter Teresa Manzel.
Milford (42-17), meanwhile, is coming off a district title after fall to rival Lakeland in the regional semifinals.
Second-year coach Mary Shelton returns three players led by junior libero Mackenzie Watson, sophomore setter-outside hitter Maddie Appleton and senior middle hitter Isabel Lee.
Northville (34-14-2) made a coaching change during the off season as assistant Rebecca Quinn takes over for Amanda Yaklin, who stepped down to become an assistant after leading the Mustangs to a pair of Class A Final Four berths.
The Mustangs, who already have a tournament title under their belts, will be led by 5-10 junior outside hitter Emily Martin along with junior setter-libero Kiera Borthwick.
One of the area’s tallest teams will be South Lyon (13-12-1) as Tom Teeters takes over the Lions’ program after serving as a volunteer assistant at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard.
Teeters guided Schoolcraft College to an NCJAA championship (1989) and was a former assistant at Bowling Green State. He also has had stops at Livonia Ladywood, where he won two Class A titles (1988 and 1989), Livonia Clarenceville, Salem Farmington Hills Mercy, Garden City, Brighton and Northville.
The Lions boost four players six feet or better led by 6-3 senior middle blocker Jessica Ignace, 6-foot senior Mikayla Monk, 6-2 junior Brigid Donahue and 6-0 junior Samantha Halaby.
Rival South Lyon East (12-19-4) returns six players led by 5-10 senior setter Nicole Dowdell along with 5-6 defensive specialist Peyton Jones as Dennis Belaire enters his fourth varsity season as coach.
Meanwhile, Novi Franklin Road Christian (11-16-1) is coming off a Class D district championship under second-year coach Michelle Angel.
The Warriors dropped their Michigan Independent Athletic Conference opener last Thursday to host Ann Arbor Greenhills as 5-11 junior middle hitter Reagan Mumford paced the Warriors in a losing cause with six kills and three blocks, while -8 freshman setter Gretchen Brockway finished with 18 assist-to-kills.