Secaucus seeks to return to the days when it regularly competed for state girls volleyball titles.

Owners of a record 18 state championships, the Patriots are rebuilding toward becoming a Group 1 power.

“I want to improve steadily over the next few weeks and make a good showing in the state tournament,” said coach Sheila Rivera, whose Patriots last year lost in the second round.

Secaucus (11-2) leads the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference Liberty Division after sweeping its first eight division matches.

The Patriots stepped up last week against a Big North Conference foe and upset previously unbeaten Fair Lawn, 25-16, 27-25.

Secaucus seeks tougher competition. The Patriots competed at last weekend’s prestigious Garden State Challenge at Ramapo College and made a good showing in a 20-team tournament that featured teams from as far away as Virginia.

“We got a lot out of playing against a lot of great teams,” said Rivera, who has won state crowns as a Patriots coach and player.

“Coming into a tournament like this only puts us one step further. We still have some work to do, and being in a tournament like this, we are able to see exactly where we need the most work to improve.”

Secaucus runs a 5-1 offense that is led by senior setter Danielle Roesing. The Patriots feature several sophomores and their “go-to hitters,” said Rivera, are 10th graders Julia McClure and Katelyn Schlemm. The libero also is a sophomore, Andrea Lennon.

“We’re definitely a better team than we were last year,” said Rivera, who led the Patriots to their last state title, in 2006.

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