By GREG MENGELT
MUNCIE — Hammond Bishop Noll never knew what hit it.
The Warriors were a state finalist — a team that earned its championship game bid with big, clutch wins throughout the tournament.
But they were no match for Providence in Saturday’s Class 2A state championship game.
Just like everyone else who played the Pioneers in the tournament. Like anyone who has played them since early September.
Providence’s 25-18, 25-15, 25-20 sweep of Noll was simply a coronation of the best team in Class 2A. Easily the best team in Class 2A.
“We knew they were a good team, but we knew we had the firepower and the will to go all the way,” Providence junior Taylor Wilson said.
“We knew [Noll] was a very competitive team,” senior Abby Spitznagel said. “We knew we had to come out and play our hardest to make it the way we wanted it to be.”
When things did get close in the third set, Providence responded. The Pioneers led by as much as 21-15 before the Warriors responded with a 4-0 run get within 21-19, forcing Providence coach Terri Purichia to call a timeout.
Purichia told her players they hadn’t won anything yet. They apparently heard her, became the dominant team they’ve been for the past two month and scored four of the final five points to close out the first state championship in program history.
“She said, ‘You all think you have it and you don’t,’” Wilson said. “But we knew in our hearts that we did. We went out and took it.”
“She encouraged us to be the team to go out and get the next point,” junior setter Patricia Mattingly said.
The timeout was the first Purichia called during the entire postseason.
“I said that they were playing like they’d won something and they hadn’t,” Purichia recalled. “[Noll] wanted a state championship as bad as our team did and, if we go through the motions, we’re going to allow that to happen. They came back and took care of business. They were smelling some success and messed around, but they got focused at that timeout and did a good job pushing through in the end.”
The Pioneers didn’t surrender a single set in the tournament. No one really came close. Only two teams — Evansville Mater Dei in the third set of the semistate championship and Noll in the third set on Saturday — reached 20 points in a set against the Pioneers.
“It’s such a huge accomplishment for the team,” Mattingly said. “It’s a great feeling.”
“It’s difficult to do that,” Purichia said. “That kind of shows what kind of focus and determination they have.”
Despite the results, Purichia said sweeping through the tournament was more difficult than it appeared.
“Nothing about the tournament was easy,” she said. “We knew that anything outside of bringing this trophy home was a failure and we were not going to let another failure happen.”
On Sept. 7, the Pioneers dropped three matches in their Providence Early Bird Tournament. After that, Providence went 28-1, lost just one match and dropped only six sets and earned 26 sweeps during a run that led to the program’s first state championship.
“I definitely think it was the turning point in our season,” sophomore Jacquie Hornung said. “It was frustrating that day, but we came back and used it as a learning lesson.”
“We got back in the locker room and we said this can’t happen anymore,” Wilson recalled. “We got back, had a tremendous Monday practice and stepped on it.”
Mattingly said that Saturday helped the Pioneers refocus. It turned them into the champion they would become.
“We learned that it’s not going to be easy,” Mattingly said. “We knew we had to come out and give it our all every single time.”