The Pentucket girls basketball team has a group of younger sisters - Kelsi McNamara, Coley Viselli, Tori Lane and Tess Nogueira — who follow the same mentality as their older sisters: Anything you can do I can do better; I can do anything better than you.
A master motivator, John McNamara knows all the tricks and all the strings to pull.
After what his Pentucket teams have been able to accomplish over the years and what this year's crop of Sachem players have been able to do — 14 straight wins, nine straight by 14-plus points, and 19 of 20 overall on the way to the state final — it would be difficult to play the "no respect" angle.
He found it, though, and has played the hand to perfection thus far: the sibling rivalry card.
"I was mentioning the other day at practice we have four sibling-sister combos (from over the years). We have Tori Lane, Coley Viselli, Tess Nogueira and Kelsi," said McNamara, who previously coached Emily Lane, Ashley Viselli, Alyssa Nogueira and Erin McNamara to the state final in 2010. "They would like to stick it to their big sisters and win a state championship on them, so that could be motivation, too."
Anyone who has a sibling who plays the same sport knows how competitive family banter can be. Although the younger group has not achieved the goal written on the back of their warm-up shirts — "Win the last game" — if they do reach that plateau they will have something their older sisters long desired but never accomplished.
"We call it bragging rights. We talked about it at practice. It's not something I'll hold over her head for a long time, but it's something that's obviously important to all of us," Coley said. "I'll say something to Ash, but I'm going to hold bragging rights for a while. We worked hard to get here, just like they did. To come out on top I think would feel really good, and it might hurt them at first, but I think they'll be happy for us. So I call it bragging rights."
It's a double-edged sword for the older crew. On one hand they can be proud knowing they paved the way for their younger siblings if they win. At the same time, their sisters will always have something they have deeply coveted for four years.
On the other hand, if Pentucket loses today, the older siblings have a special understanding of how painful that loss would be. The 2009-10 team was seemingly on a mission toward a state title and entered the game a whopping 26-0, only to be derailed in that final game.
"Emily was like, 'I hate you and love you at the same time. I'm so proud of you, but I hate the position because I just want to be in that position again,'" explained Tori of how her sister and the other players' older sisters feel.
"It's something where only they were in the same position, so it's something I think we obviously have a little bit of a rivalry about," continued Tori. "If we win, it would be something to say I know the feeling, but also they can understand it, too, if we are able to do it."
"I think all of the people that played on our team two years ago definitely kind of have a little animosity towards us this year, that we made it to the state championship again. We definitely wanted to win that game two years ago," said Tess, whose sister will be joining the rest of the older crew in Worcester to cheer on the Sachems. "But I think all of them have been supportive of us because it's all joking around about how they should've won a state championship.
"I think they're happy to see us make it there again and I think they're kind of vicariously living through us this year, because it's the state championship again and the feelings they had two years ago," continued this year's Sachem center, who said her sister calls for good luck before and after every game. "But it's all in good fun."
There is clearly a ton of respect for the last group that made it to the state championship. In fact, Kelsi and Coley have an unusual superstition: crashing in their older sisters' beds that were vacated once they left for college.
"Oh yeah, when Ashley first left for school, I moved my stuff into her room and Kelsi does the same thing," explained Coley of her good luck charm. "Whether it's the night before or every night, I know I sleep in there every night, and it seems to be working out pretty good. I think (Ashley's) coming home Friday night and I'm going to have to convince her to sleep in my room at least until Saturday."
"I do that, too," Kelsi added. "I know once the tournament started, I just decided to sleep in her bed. I thought that it would bring me luck because she slept in that bed all four years of high school, and I thought it would help me play more like her, which I wanted to do."
Laughing about Kelsi and Coley, Tess said she didn't sleep in her sister's bed, but if it works for them to keep doing it.
But whether it's wearing the same hair elastics, the same pregame meal or listening to the same songs on the bus ride, the Sachems have their long-standing traditions going back to when their older sisters were making this trip. They're just hoping for a little better stroke of luck this go around.