BY DAN STICKRADT
NOVI — In a season of success stories, Novi’s volleyball program is also doing its part.
At Class A Novi, the Wildcats have been exceptional in fall sports in 2015.
First, the boys tennis ran the tables as the No. 1 squad in Division 1 and tied with Bloomfield Hills for its second straight title.
Novi’s girls golf program had its best season to date, hanging around the top 10 before finishing fifth at the D-1 state finals.
Novi’s football team qualified for the D-1 postseason for the first time since 2008.
The Wildcats’ boys soccer team, despite losing in the first round of districts, was ranked in the D-1 top-20 all season.
Over in boys cross-country, Novi has been ranked in the top three all season, including the No. 1 spot for a month, and recently won the prestigious Oakland County Championships.
“It has been a great season so far at Novi,” said girls volleyball coach Jen Cottrill, who is in her fourth season with the Wildcats.
Well, another part of the winning equation has been the stellar Wildcats’ volleyball squad, which currently locks down the top spot in the Class A — since the first week of the season.
The Wildcats hold a 37-2-0 record, winning several tournaments, to go along with the KLAA-Central Division title at 10-0. Novi also posted a perfect 6-0-0 ledger at the recent KLAA Tournament and came home away with its sixth straight association championship.
The Wildcats defeated White Lake Lakeland, Hartland and Brighton in pool play before topping Plymouth Salem (25-13, 25-11) in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, the Wildcats toppled Walled Lake Central (25-18, 25-15) before rallying past Northville (21-25, 26-24, 15-8) in the finals.
Novi finished as the state runner-up last season, falling to Romeo in five games. In the final set, Romeo held a 15-9 edge to prevail. That left plenty of motivation behind for the returning Wildcats, who finished a fine 55-7-5 last season.
Seniors outside hitters Victoria Iacobelli (5-9) and Paulina Iacobelli (5-9), junior outside hitter Ally Cummings (6-1) and sophomore setter Erin O’Leary (5-10) lead the cast of talented returnees for Novi. Senior Christina Hudgens (5-11) also started some matches at setter last season.
Sophomore libero Claire Pinkerton (5-6), junior middle blocker Emmy Robinson (5-11) and sophomore middle blocker Kathryn Ellison (6-0) have emerged as the key newcomers this season on a deep team.
The Wildcats have been able to overcome the loss of a trio of three-year varsity letter winners who were key cogs in the rotation last season. Jordan Massab, Olivia Bradford, Jennifer Kulie and Jennifer Smith were the key contributors that graduated.
“We have some very good balance this season and we still do have some nice depth,” offered Cottrill. “We have some very good players back from last year, including a couple of All-State players, plus some nice newcomers that have filled in.”
Keeping focused has been what Cottrill has preached since Day 1 and not to worry about the state tournament until that time of year arrives.
“This team has great chemistry,” noted Cottrill, attributing that to the team’s success so far this season. “They are focused and have a great work ethic. Those are all (key ingredients) for a team that wants to make a run again.”