• Michigan

Three-time defending champs Novi survives another scare at home from Hartland

By: Matthew B. Mowery, September 11, 2018, 11:55 pm

NOVI — Doesn’t matter what the names say on the back of the jerseys.

Opponents are always going to aim for the target that goes around the name on the front.

Over the past three years of dominance, Novi’s volleyball players have just gotten used to wearing that target, understanding that everyone was playing that name on the front of their shirts.

For the now three-time defending champs, that target hasn’t gotten smaller, even thought this year’s team is vastly different, personnel-wise.

“I think that every single team we’ve played so far has come after us, even more so than they would against any other team, because we’re Novi, and we’ve achieved so much in the past,” said first-year coach Kacy Moran. “I think that’s the biggest thing of getting our younger players used to, is that there is not going to be one single game this season where (opponents) are not going to give it their all. Every team is going to come out because they finally want to have a chance to beat Novi.”

That’s what happened when Livonia Churchill came into Novi’s gym last week, and beat the Wildcats in five sets, 20-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-21 and 15-13.

And that’s what looked like might be about to happen again on Tuesday, when an amped-up visiting Hartland squad won the first set, 25-20.

When you’ve lost a grand total of six matches — or 3.5 percent of your total matches played — in three seasons, you’ve probably not lost a whole lot on your home floor.

“At tournaments yes, but not any home games,” admitted senior Jaeda Porter. “We’ve been pretty solid.”

Could it happen two times in a row?

Turns out, no.

The host Wildcats (11-5, 2-1 KLAA) flipped a switch in the second set, winning 25-18. With the Eagles on their heels at that point, Novi won the third set, 25-9, then closed it out with a 25-17 win in the final set.

“I thought we started out slow. We started out not looking like our game. And as the second set started, it immediately seemed like everything flipped for us, and we started playing our game of Novi volleyball. From there on out, I felt like we did really well for the rest of the match,” Moran said. “So if we can get that light bulb to click, to realize that every single team is going to give us their best, and we’ve got to step up and give our best, from Point One, it’s going to look a lot different every single game. But right now, we’re kind of starting out slow every single time, thinking ‘Oh, well, it’s so-and-so.’ It doesn’t matter what team it is. Every team is going to give 150 percent, because we are Novi.”

Even with the Wildcats losing nine seniors off last year’s squad — including Miss Volleyball Erin O’Leary — and coach Jen Cottrill, every opponent is still trying to be the one to knock them off.

“Oh, yeah. And I feel like people are also underestimating us this year, because we did lose nine seniors,” said Porter, who led Novi with 17 kills and 17 digs. “We just want to go out here and play Novi volleyball and let people know what we have and know that we’re a great team, and that we didn’t lose anything.”

Shannon Jennings had eight kills, four aces and three solo blocks for Novi, while Gabby Cummings had eight kills, and Victoria Balog had four solo blocks. Rachel Jennings had 23 digs, and Alivia Hart had 18.