Remember the hurt.
Thats the Norland girls basketball teams motto entering the 2012-13 season in which anything short of a Class 6A state title would be considered a disappointment.
The hurt, of course, is the memory of dropping last years state championship game to Orlando Edgewater in a game where the Vikings led at halftime, but were the victims of a 19-2 second-half run to lose 46-36.
Every time I hear that, it just brings so much hurt to my heart, said Nia Roberts, who was on The Miami Heralds All-Dade first team last season. ... It pushes us even more. Were not going to let that happen this year.
Coach Carla Harris-Currys squad, a program which brought home state championships the three years before losing last season, returns four of five starters from last years unit.
A major key for the Vikings is the restoration of Brittany Dinkins to that starting lineup. The 5-6 senior guard, who can both shoot and drive to the basket, missed the majority of 2011-12 with a knee injury.
She worked hard in rehab to return in time for the playoff run but said shes really just starting to get her game back now.
It feels great to be back with my teammates, said Dinkins, who will sign her letter of intent on Wednesday with Southern Mississippi. Im back now this year, and were taking it all the way.
Norland brings to the table one of the top inside-outside games in the state. Roberts, the 5-11 senior forward, and 6-0 sister Kayla, a junior, provide the punch in the post, and Dinkins and junior Danneal Ford provide the perimeter play to complete this team.
Nia Roberts, who is the only current Viking to earn playing time in the teams last state championship win two years ago, is coming off a season where she nearly averaged a double-double with 11.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
She had minor knee surgery in the offseason, but Harris-Curry says she hasnt missed a beat.
She would formerly restrict herself to be a back-to-the-basket player in the post but has expanded her game by developing the ability to face-up defenders and take them off the dribble.
Its the defense, though, that is always the foundation for any Harris-Curry-coached team, creating a lot of the offense by forcing turnovers.
We want to control the tempo; we want to play hard defense, Harris-Curry said. Were not explosive on offense, but on defense, if [opponents] dont score a lot, then we dont have to score a lot.
Norland faced two other top Dade teams in preseason play, defeating Lourdes 51-44 and Miami High 56-46 on back-to-back nights.
The Vikings kick off their regular season against Mater Academy on Wednesday. Their schedule also consists of a game against another of Class 6As top competitors, Naples Barron Collier, on Dec. 12. They will participate in multiple major tournaments, including trips to Moultrie, Ga. and Brooklyn, NY.