By JON REITER
CLARKSVILLE — The Providence Pioneers girls' volleyball team captured its third consecutive Class 2A Providence Sectional championship on Saturday at the Robert L. Larkin Center, defeating crosstown rival Clarksville in three sets, 25-9, 25-8, 25-13.
The Pioneers steamrolled through their three matches during the tournament without losing a set and saved their best for the championship round in burying the Generals (16-17) with a dizzying array of blocks, kills and service aces.
Class 2A No. 1 Providence (31-4) dispatched Crawford County in three sets (25-10, 25-9, 25-11) in the morning matchup to advance to the championship against Clarksville, who turned back Eastern in three, 27-25, 25-20, 25-18.
"This group has talent and they have determination," Providence coach Terri Purchia said. "When you have those ingredients, it's a recipe for success. We've been watching this team, as a group, since they were young — watching them go through the camps, watching them play club ball.
"We've thought they were a group that had the ingredients to compete for a state championship, and watching them develop over the past few years has been really exciting."
Junior outside hitter Taylor Wilson led the Pioneers with 16 kills, including four in the third and final set and the clincher that gave Providence the 25-13 win.
Wilson, along with her teammates, are confident both in the way they're playing right now and in how they see the next few weeks develop as Providence marches towards a potential state championship.
"I think we're focused right now, and as long as we keep this mindset and don't let our heads get in the way, we can go all the way," said Wilson, who also added four blocks. "We've got to maintain our intensity and keep going."
The Pioneers travel to North Decatur for the single-game regional round Tuesday night. Setter Patricia Mattingly, who finished with 29 assists, said, "it's back to work. We can enjoy this one, but we've got to start it back up and get ready for Tuesday."
One key to Providence's success late in the season has been its serving. The Pioneers converted 13 aces, with libero Audrey Shannon notching six of those.
"It is the key for us," Purchia said, emphasizing the word key.
The Generals were a heavy underdog heading into the championship matchup against the Pioneers, but they played well in winning their match against Pekin.
Clarksville graduates four seniors, but returns a solid group of contributors, including freshmen hitters Bri Brown and Carol Hawkins, sophomore setter Cheyenne Bledsoe and juniors Maiya Sutton and Kayla Wallace.
"We came in and I told the girls to have fun, to stay positive and not to give anything away," Clarksville coach John McEwen said. "I think we accomplished two of those three things. We've gotten better as a team. I think with what we've coming back, and if we keep working hard, the future is bright for Clarksville volleyball."
CLASS 2A PROVIDENCE SECTIONAL
Providence 25 25 25
Crawford County 10 9 11
Clarksville 27 25 25
Eastern 25 20 18
Providence 25 25 25
Clarksville 9 8 13
Providence: Patricia Mattingly 29 assists, 4 aces; Taylor Wilson 16 kills, 3 blocks; Audrey Shannon 6 aces; Jacquie Hornung 9 kills; Maddie Bivens 5 kills.
Clarksville: Maggie Kane 3 kills; Cheyenne Bledsoe 9 assists; Ali Sparkman 4 kills; Bri Brown 2 kills.