By KEVIN HARRIS
For the fourth time in her tenure as the Providence High School volleyball coach, Terri Purichia took the Pioneers to the IHSAA State Finals last Saturday at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena.
But for the fourth time, Purichia and her players fell short of winning the program’s first state championship. Class 2A No. 2 Providence lost to top-ranked and defending 2A state champion Wapahani in the 2A state championship match, 22-25, 25-15, 25-6, 25-22.
Despite Saturday’s setback, Purichia was pleased with the Pioneers’ 2012 season. Providence posted a 35-5 record, won its 27th sectional championship, captured its eighth regional title and claimed its second semi-state crown.
Following last Saturday’s loss to Wapahani, Purichia sat down with News and Tribune sports reporter Kevin Harris about the setback to the Raiders, this past season’s success and her young squad’s competitiveness.
QUESTION: What was your players’ mindset before the state championship match?
PURICHIA: “They were loose, excited and anxious to get started. They were just so confident and wanted to get out on the court. I tried to keep them settled.”
Q: You won the first set. But in the second and third sets, it seemed your players lost some energy. Did you feel they lost some energy?
PURICHIA: “Absolutely. They came out so flat and you can’t do that against that team. We had absolutely no composure. I was very shocked, too. I don’t know if that was from the emotional high that we let down. I’m certainly not going to say that was due to Wapahani because they turned up the heat a little bit on us. But I don’t think they turned it up to the point where we could get beat like that.”
Q: You talked to your players before they got their runner-up medals in the post-match awards ceremony. What did you basically tell them?
PURICHIA: “I looked down at them after we lined them up and they were all crying. But there are 402 teams in the state of Indiana that would’ve liked to have been on that podium today. They needed to save their emotions for the locker room, and go out and be proud of themselves for a very, very, very nice season. So I told them that they needed to stop crying and put a smile on their faces because that’s what the crowd deserved to see when they were getting their medals.”
Q: Bottom line, what did you think was the difference in the state-title match?
PURICHIA: “I think the difference in the match was our lack of consistent pressure on that team. When we pressured them, we made them uncomfortable. When we let up on that, it was something that we paid for.”
Q: What do you hope your players learned from playing in the state championship match?
PURICHIA: “First and foremost, I want them to learn what a great community Providence High School is because we certainly saw that during this tournament run. The second thing I want them to know is when you are put in a position like this, you have to maintain confidence in yourselves. I would like for them to learn that the only people that can take things away from them is them, and I think they did that [last Saturday]. We made it easy on Wapahani to beat us because we didn’t give it everything we had.”
Q: Reflect on this season. Can you compare this team to your past squads at Providence?
PURICHIA: “It’s unfair to compare one team to the next because every team is so special and every team is so unique. This team has such a wonderful balance of hard work and enthusiasm. They have a genuine love for one another. They have a great respect for each other and the coaches. They were able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. They have really worked hard over the course of several years to be in this position. That doesn’t take anything away from any team that we’ve had at Providence. But this team has certainly deserved the success that they’ve been able to achieve because of the things they’ve put into the game.”
Q: What is it going to take for this team to get back to the state championship match next year?
PURICHIA: “They have to do everything they did during the offseason last year and raise it up a notch. They have such a fighting spirit in them, and [last Saturday’s loss] is not going to sit well with this team. I guarantee you this — they will be back in the gym tomorrow to make sure that they are capable of pulling this off next season as they can be.”
Q: Since Wapahani won the state championship, it will move up to Class 3A next season because of the IHSAA’s new success-factor rule. What do you think of that rule?
PURICHIA: “I’m not a fan of that success-factor rule. I would like nothing more for Wapahani to be back in this class, so we can get another crack at them. This group does not shy away from competition, and I would really like another chance to beat them. However, there’s still a lot of very good competition and very, very big challenges are still left in 2A. There are some big teams that are now going to feel like they have a good opportunity to be in the state championship.”
Q: You play so many tough teams on your schedule. How does Wapahani compare to all the tough teams you faced this year?
PURICHIA: “I would say that Wapahani was the best ball-control team out of any of the people on our schedule. Their impeccable ball control was something that we had not faced on a consistent basis all year. But with that being said, we realized early on in the season that our schedule was not hard enough for the team that we were developing to be. We have worked the last three months on beefing it up even more, so we have challenges around every corner. Next season around every single corner is a team that can beat us and that’s only going to make us better. I don’t like playing teams that I think we can beat. I love playing teams that are going to challenge us, and I want more teams like Wapahani on our schedule.”