FERDINAND — They cruised through the first two sets in their semistate championship matchup against Evansville Mater Dei and struggled a bit in the third, but the Providence Pioneers volleyball team prevailed against the Wildcats 25-15, 25-16, 26-24 to advance to their second consecutive Class 2A state finals appearance.
The Pioneers also defeated No. 2 Speedway 25-16, 25-21, 25-15 earlier in Saturday’s Class 2A Forest Park Semistate.
"Up until today, there hasn't been a lot of pressure put on this team during the tournament," said Providence (35-4) coach Terri Purchia. "Speedway had some horses that could do that, and Mater Dei absolutely had some horses that could do it. [Mater Dei] just would not go away. Each set, they got better and better. So keeping calm and gutting that third set out was extremely important to our confidence level. Our kids need to realize that if they can continue to play with that kind of emotion, we're going to be very hard to stop."
Providence will face Hammond Noll, who advanced to the 2A championship with a five-set win over Woodlan, for the state crown.
The state finals will be held in Worthen Arena on Ball State University's campus in Muncie, with game time scheduled for approximately 1 p.m. Saturday.
The No. 1 Pioneers looked as if they were going to steamroll Mater Dei, cruising through the first two sets 25-15 and 25-16 with a virtuoso display of hitting, passing and defense.
Purchia has said all along that the key to the Pioneers' success this season was closely tied to their service, and Providence didn't commit their first service error until the end of the second set of the championship match.
"It's something we've been working a lot on in practice, and we're getting better and better with it," said sophomore outside hitter Jacquie Hornung, who contributed seven kills to the Providence attack. “If we can be accurate and be aggressive with our service it makes it very hard to beat us."