By JON REITER
One down, six to go.
Class 2A No. 1 Providence took its the first step in achieving their ultimate goal — a state championship — by turning back Henryville in sectional play in three sets — 25-12, 25-12, 25-14 — in the Class 2A Providence Sectional opener on Thursday at the Robert I. Larkin Center.
It was a very workmanlike performance by the Pioneers (29-4), who only trailed at one point in the match, 1-0 after a service error gave the Hornets (19-14) the lead in the first set.
Following a kill by Taylor Wilson that knotted the second set up at 1-1, the Pioneers rattled off five straight points on Wilson’s service that gave the Pioneers a 6-1 lead and they coasted to their second straight 25-12 win.
The Hornets showed some life in the third set but never were able to overcome the combination of potent offense and stingy defense that has made Providence so dominant throughout the season.
“The first time we played them in September, they were a nice team, and I told our girls that they had better be ready,” Providence coach Terri Purchia said of the Hornets. “[Hornet coach] Shallon [Hill] does a great job and they have some nice athletes on their team. I feel like offensively, we had a better game this time than we did the first time, and I think serving ... the way we mixed things up got to them after a little while.”
Wilson led the Pioneers with 14 kills and Jacquie Hornung added 10, including five in the first set. Patricia Mattingly added 32 assists and four blocks, and three other Pioneers recorded at least five kills.
The Pioneers will face Crawford County, who edged Paoli in the early match in a five-set battle, in Saturday morning’s sectional semifinal. The winner of that match will face the Eastern and Clarksville winner.
“Once again, [Crawford County], they are a very athletic team. Their defense is solid and they serve well,” Purchia said. “Those kind of teams are the types of teams that come in here and know they have a shot to knock us off the mountaintop, and they’re going to give us everything they have.”
The Hornets say goodbye to two seniors, Tami Burgin and outside hitter Courtney Rappe, who Purchia noted was a threat the Pioneers had to stop last night. Rappe finished with six kills.
Hill noted the improvement her squad has made this season, going from nine wins a year ago to 19 this season. Henryville returns a substantial number of key cogs for next season.
“It wasn’t our best performance of the season, but we worked hard and didn’t roll over,” Hill said. “[Providence is] a state-championship caliber team and I have so much respect for Terri and their team. We are a underclassman-dominated team, and I would have loved for us to have the chance to play against a team like Providence in a sectional final to get them used to that kind of atmosphere. But we’re going to continue to work hard and get better and hopefully we’ll take things further next year.”
PROVIDENCE 3, HENRYVILLE 0
Providence 25 25 25
Henryville 12 12 14
Providence: Patricia Mattingly 32 assists, 2 kills, 4 blocks; Haley Libs 8 kills, 2 blocks; Taylor Wilson 14 kills, Jacquie Hornung 10 kills; Maddie Bivens 5 kills, Carlie Combs 5 kills.
Henryville: Courtney Rappe 6 kills; Emily Hollis 14 assists; Emma Hendricks 4 kills; Kerri Cochran 5 kills; Haley Huddleston 4 kills; Hannah Nunn 3 kills.