By KEVIN HARRIS
Providence volleyball fans — if you had any concerns about the Class 2A No. 1 Pioneers having a letdown in their Class 2A regional match at North Decatur on Tuesday night — you had nothing to worry about.
Three days after capturing its third consecutive sectional title, Providence took care of business on Tuesday with a 25-8, 25-11, 25-11 victory over the host Chargers in a match that lasted about an hour. It was Providence’s third regional championship in a row and ninth overall.
“They’re all special because we had a drought of some really good Providence volleyball teams that weren’t able to get this far. You realize during that stretch how hard it is to do this and how special it is,” said Providence coach Terri Purichia, who collected her sixth regional crown as the Pioneer boss. “It’s not going to get old. This is very, very special and a very great thing for the Providence volleyball community, and I’m really proud of them. They’ve worked very hard to get in a position to do this.”
The Pioneers (33-4) will play third-ranked Speedway (35-2) in the second semifinal of the Forest Park Semistate at about 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Sparkplugs defeated Indianapolis Ritter in their regional on Tuesday, 25-16, 25-23, 25-21. Pioneer middle hitter Taylor Wilson had a big night with a match-high 14 kills, 12 service points and two service aces. Wilson set Providence’s businesslike tone in the first set as she spiked five kills.
“I think after warm-ups, we were very excited and anxious to start the game,” Wilson said. “We wanted to show them that we were here for business, and we weren’t going to play around and let them score on us. We all had the mindset to come out strong. Everytime I got the ball, I was thinking that this ball must go down.”
Wilson was not the only Pioneer that had a good night smacking the ball. Junior Haley Libs made 10 kills to go along with eight digs. Sophomore Jacquie Hornung had nine kills and two aces. Junior setter Patricia Mattingly also got involved in the Providence hitting attack with nine kills. Mattingly also did a solid job passing the ball with 35 assists and seven digs. Also for the Pioneers, senior Maile Daniel made three blocks and junior Maddie Bivens had 19 service points, 10 digs and two blocks. Wilson said a sound practice on Monday got her and her teammates ready for the regional.
“We had an extremely good practice. We executed every ball that we got. We played hard against each other. We played 6-on-6 against each other, and we just weren’t letting each other get any points,” she said. “We were executing every ball. We were making each other better and I think that focus carried over into tonight. When we got on the bus today, we knew what we had to do. We knew the two-hour bus ride was not going to affect us at all, and that we were going to get here and show them whose house it was.”
The Pioneers started the match registering nine of the opening set’s first 11 points. Leading 19-8, Providence closed out the first game by scoring six unanswered points.
“I loved the intensity of their first set,” Purichia said about her players’ Game 1 performance. “I thought they came out smoking. I think they intimidated them right off the start. As the match wore on, I saw some things that we need to get fixed before Saturday. But overall, I liked the focus they had overall during the match.”
The Pioneers finished the second set strong as well. Holding a 17-8 lead, Providence reeled off six straight points to spark a game-clinching 8-3 run. Providence tallied the first nine points of the third set and was up 23-9 late in the final game.
The Chargers (20-8) never had the lead in the entire match. Senior Anna Wallpe paced North Decatur with six kills, while fellow senior Erin Hoeing chipped in five.
The regional title is the second step in Providence achieving its ultimate goal — a Class 2A state championship. The Pioneers finished as 2A state runners-up last season as they lost to Wapahani in the state championship match, 22-25, 25-15, 25-6, 25-22. Purichia says her troops are more focused on accomplishing that goal this season.
“This team is on a mission — I’m not going to lie about that,” Purichia said. “This year is much more businesslike. Last season, I think they were in awe with the fun and all of that kind of stuff. It was exciting and fun and a little bit new for them. This year, they know what is ahead and they know what is expected.”
Purichia expects Saturday’s semistate to have one of the most competitive fields in the state. The first semifinal at 11 a.m. will pit Union County (26-10) against Evansville Mater Dei (28-7).
“The semistate is loaded,” she said. “It is going to be an extremely competitive day and not a cakewalk for us to get through that [second] match to make it to the finals. We have a lot of preparing to do when we get back to practice. We have several things that we need to fix and polish in order to make a return trip to the state finals.”
The tough competition has not weakened Wilson’s confidence in her team’s state championship hopes.
“I think going into Saturday, we’re going to have the mindset that we’re going all the way and I don’t think anyone is going to stop us this year,” Wilson said. “We have the chemistry of a team that’s been playing together for so long that nothing is going to get in our way. We wanted this since we were little kids, and I think this is the year we’re going to get our ring.”
CLASS 2A REGIONAL
At North Decatur
PROVIDENCE 3, NORTH DECATUR 0
Providence 25 25 25
North Decatur 8 11 11
Aces — Providence: Jacquie Hornung 2, Taylor Wilson 2; North Decatur: Alison Wallpe 1.
Assists — Providence: Patricia Mattingly 35.
Blocks — Providence: Maile Daniel 3, Maddie Bivens 2; North Decatur: Anna Wallpe 1, Al. Wallpe 1.
Digs — Providence: Bivens 10, Haley Libs 8, Mattingly 7.
Kills — Providence: Wilson 14, Libs 10, Hornung 9, Mattingly 9; North Decatur: An. Wallpe 6, Erin Hoenig 5.
Service points — Providence: Bivens 19, Wilson 12.