By KEVIN HARRIS
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
One area volleyball team knows a thing or two about playing in the regional round of the IHSAA state tournament. Meanwhile, another area volleyball team has not competed in a regional in eight years.
But both Providence and Christian Academy have the same objective entering their respective home regional matches at 7 tonight — win a regional title and advance to Saturday’s semi-state.
The Class 2A No. 2 Pioneers (32-4) will host Southwestern (26-10) in the Class 2A regional at the Larkin Center. Providence will be making its second consecutive regional appearance and its 26th overall. The Pioneers defeated South Ripley in last year’s 2A regional match, 25-22, 25-17, 28-26.
The Warriors (24-5) will play Class A No. 4 and defending state runner-up Trinity Lutheran (31-4) tonight in the Class A regional in New Albany. Christian Academy will be playing in its first regional since 2004, when the school was named Graceland Christian.
PIONEERS NOT LOOKING PAST REBELS
When you look at the Class 2A regional on paper, Providence is the overwhelming favorite.
The Pioneers have been ranked in the top two of the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association Class 2A poll for most of the season. They have 32 victories, which includes a three-set win over Southwestern on Sept. 20 (25-15, 25-13, 25-11), against a difficult schedule. Finally, Providence has seven regional titles, while Southwestern has never won a regional.
But veteran Pioneers’ coach Terri Purichia has warned her players not to overlook the Rebels.
“We don’t look for them to run away from us,” Purichia said. “They are a very athletically-talented team. They have two kids that can give us a lot of trouble if we let them get involved in the game. We’re taking [tonight’s] match very seriously. We know that Southwestern has a team that is capable of pulling off the upset if we don’t come in ready to play.
“There has been one thing that we’ve been saying to this team all season long and that’s to have tunnel vision. There have been times that we’ve done it better than other times, but that has definitely something we are going to continue to say to them. We’ve got to keep tunnel vision and focus on the task at hand.”
Providence captured its second sectional title in a row last Saturday at Henryville. After getting a first-round bye, the Pioneers defeated Paoli in the semifinals (25-11, 25-15, 25-18) and Eastern (Pekin) in the championship (25-17, 25-12, 25-11).
But despite winning another sectional, Purichia thought both the Rams and Musketeers really challenged the Pioneers last weekend.
“Paoli and Pekin, in my opinion, both played very well, so we had to really play,” Purichia said. “We had to really play, which I love. I like going into a match knowing that there is a team on the other side that can beat you. I think in the end, we overpowered them offensively. We kept the intensity of our serving at a high level.
“But I did not feel we played our best game either time and I did think we got nervous. We still are dealing with that youthfulness this season.”
If Providence claims another regional crown tonight, Purichia says the Forest Park Semi-state will be very competitive. Two teams expected to reach the semi-state are Class 2A No. 4 Eastern Greene and Class 2A No. 10 Indianapolis Ritter. Eastern Greene, which was last year’s state runner-up, defeated Providence in the 2011 semi-state semifinal en route to the semi-state championship.
“Winning the regional would put us in a very, very intense semi-state, and we would have to play two very well-put-together matches in order to advance,” Purichia said. “Can we do it? Absolutely, we can do it. But we’ve got to go in taking it one point at a time and one game at a time.
“At this point if you look ahead, that’s when you’re going to stumble.”
Sophomore Taylor Wilson leads the Pioneers in kills with 368, while teammate Haley Libs ranks second with 280. Providence sophomore setter Patricia Mattingly paces the team in assists with 725, while Pioneer senior libero Kylie Flanagan has a team-high 275 digs.
WARRIORS EMBRACING UNDERDOG ROLE
Christian Academy heads into tonight’s Class A regional as a huge underdog versus Trinity Lutheran. But the Warriors have embraced the underdog role throughout the postseason.
Entering last week’s Class A Christian Academy Sectional, the Warriors suffered regular-season setbacks to both Lanesville and New Washington. But Christian Academy paid back both teams last Saturday, defeating the Eagles in the semis (25-18, 25-17, 20-25, 25-19) and the Mustangs in the final (18-25, 17-25, 25-19, 26-24, 15-12).
“We went into the sectional as the underdog. We lost to Lanesville and New Washington in the regular season,” Warriors’ coach Walter Pauly said. “But it was a great situation for us because it was two losses we wanted to avenge.”
Pauly said the biggest confidence-boosting victory last weekend was against the Mustangs. During the unbelievable come-from-behind win, Christian Academy trailed 7-1 in the third set.
“After our win over New Washington, we think we can beat anybody,” Pauly said. “We pressed on and didn’t give up. We had the belief that we could get it done. We went after every single point. [The Warriors] just never gave up — they were relentless.”
Christian Academy will meet Trinity Lutheran for the second time in 2012. The Cougars swept the Warriors in straight sets on Oct. 4 in New Albany, 25-19, 25-22, 25-16.
“They’re the real deal,” Pauly said. “I think they’re a very good team and a very well-coached team. But our team has really started to pull together the last two weeks. They got to state last year for a reason, and we want to get there as well.”
The Boesing sisters — Rachel and Krista Boesing — lead the Christian Academy attack, as they both pace the team in kills. Freshman setter Alex Falcone leads the Warriors in assists, averaging 31 per match. Christian Academy sophomore Brooklyn Garrison leads the squad in digs, while junior Emily Haworth has the Warriors’ most service aces this year.
Even though Trinity Lutheran is a formidable opponent, Pauly says his troops have not lost focus on advancing in the state tournament.
“We don’t want it to end,” Pauly said.