BY JON REITER
Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and the Class 2A No. 1 Providence Pioneers’ volleyball squad seemingly was in need of some inspiration going into Thursday night’s matchup against Brownstown Central at the Robert I. Larkin Center.
Not that Providence had been playing badly, according to coach Terri Purichia, but perhaps it had hit cruise control just a tad in its march towards the postseason.
Motivated by a group of volleyball parents dressed up in wigs and goofy costumes to cheer them on, the Pioneers (22-4) dominated Brownstown (16-10) and coasted to a 25-14, 25-21, 25-11 win.
“Our Spirit Dads I think recognized that maybe we had been playing a little flat,” said Purichia. “Everyone in this program wants badly to see this team succeed. This was the first time all season they did this — it gives our group a little bit of opportunity to relax and to let them know they’re supported, and the girls really responded to that.”
The Class 2A state runners-up last year put on a defensive and offensive clinic, taking out the Braves in the first set by scoring seven consecutive points on outside hitter Jacquie Hornung’s serve to take a 19-11 lead. Providence had to contend with 6-foot-1 Brownstown middle hitter Riley Wischmeier throughout the contest, and consecutive kills from Wischmeier narrowed the margin to 21-13.
But the Pioneers closed out the first set behind kills from Haley Libs and Maile Daniel and captured it with a 25-14 margin.
Libs was the big hitter for the Pioneers, hammering down 13 kills to pace Providence. Taylor Wilson and Hornung added nine kills apiece and setter Patricia Mattingly assisted on 31 points for the Pioneers.
It was a fairly complete effort for Providence, which will face New Albany at The Doghouse on Tuesday night.
Providence made an adjustment on Wischmeier midway through the second set with the Pioneers trailing 15-10 following a timeout, with Libs, Mattingly and Hornung all blocking kills attempts from the Brownstown hitter. They took their first lead at 17-16 following a Brownstown net violation and outpointed the Braves 8-5 over the remainder of the set to capture it 25-21.
“That’s been our problem — the second set doldrums,” Purichia said. “So far, they’ve been able to fight through that and refocus, and we are fortunate to be able to do that against good teams like Brownstown.”
The second set rally seemed to suck the wind out of the Braves, who petered out in the third set in falling 25-11.
Overall, Purichia said she’s pleased with the progress her squad has made over the season, pointing out that many of her crucial players, including Wilson, Hornung, Mattingly and Libs, are all underclassmen. She also credited the leadership and play of seniors Abby Spitznagel, Mary Kate Meyer and Daniel for helping them keep focus.
“Oct. 1 is the time when we snapped back into attention,” she said. “When October hits, they realize the postseason is around the corner. They start to realize it’s time to get busy. This is a really good group of kids. They know their time is coming and that it’s time to get serious — that this is what they’ve been working for.”
BROWNSTOWN CEN. 14 21 11
PROVIDENCE 25 25 25
Aces — Providence: Jacquie Hornung 2.
Assists — Brownstown: Nichole Thomas 19; Providence: Patricia Mattingly 31.
Blocks — Brownstown: Riley Wischmeier 4; Providence: Haley Libs 4, Taylor Wilson 4, Hornung 3, Mattingly 3.
Kills — Brownstown: Wischmeier 14; Providence: Libs 13, Hornung 9, Wilson 9, Mattingly 4.