By KEVIN HARRIS
The Providence volleyball team had lots of motivation entering last Saturday’s Class 2A Forest Park Semi-state championship match.
One motivating factor was to defeat Class 2A No. 4 and defending 2A state runner-up Eastern Greene, which knocked off the No. 2 Pioneers in the semi-state semifinal a year ago. Providence avenged last season’s loss to the Thunderbirds in three sets, 25-18, 25-20, 25-16.
But according to Providence sophomore setter Patricia Mattingly, the Pioneers also won the semi-state for their unquestioned leader, libero Kylie Flanagan.
“This feels amazing because it is for Kylie and the whole Providence community,” Mattingly said.
Flanagan is the lone senior on a Providence team that will square off with top-ranked and defending Class 2A state champion Wapahani at 1 p.m. this coming Saturday in the 2A state championship match at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena in Muncie.
Providence coach Terri Purichia says Flanagan has done a fantastic job as the leader of the 35-4 Pioneers.
“Being a senior in any sport is not easy to do because you have to focus so much on the team and you can’t worry about how you are playing,” Purichia said. “Kylie has had to do it all alone and she’s done it every day with a smile on her face. She has just meant everything to this group of kids. They follow her lead in every aspect. She is their best friend and their mother. She can be anything they need her to be.
“She is the leader of this team and I cannot say enough about what Kylie does for this group of kids. She’s such a wonderful kid and I couldn’t be more happier for her to have this kind of success because she really does deserve it.”
After last Saturday’s semi-state championship, News and Tribune sports reporter Kevin Harris talked with Flanagan on paying back Eastern Greene, being the Pioneers’ leader and the upcoming showdown with Wapahani.
QUESTION: You delivered the service ace for match point in the semi-state final. What was going through your mind once the ball hit the floor and you and your teammates were semi-state champions?
FLANAGAN: “It was the happiest moment of my life. I can’t even describe how I felt. It was just so awesome. All the work had paid off. We got revenge and it was awesome.”
Q: You are going to be a part of the first Providence volleyball team to ever compete in a state championship match next Saturday. When you hear that, how does it feel?
FLANAGAN: “It feels awesome. It feels like I’m paying everything back to my school and the program. It’s the best feeling ever.”
Q: How big of an accomplishment is it for this program to reach the Class 2A state final?
FLANAGAN: “It’s like the best [achievement] obviously ever. I just can’t wait [for Saturday] to be in that match and hopefully win it like I know we can.”
Q: How motivated was your team to avenge last year’s semifinal loss to Eastern Greene?
FLANAGAN: “We remembered it at every practice and every game. Everything that we worked for to get revenge on last year’s game and I think we did. Everybody keeps saying that we are a young team and we don’t have the experience. But we just showed everyone how good we are and that we could do it.”
Q: Were you surprised you beat Eastern Greene in three sets?
FLANAGAN: “That was our goal to beat them in three sets. I knew we could do it. I was a little shocked, but it felt awesome and I knew we could do it. From the very first game, I kind of knew it was going to go to three from how we came out and our intensity.”
Q: Define your role on this team.
FLANAGAN: “I just try to be like the defensive captain. I try to pick up [every ball] and get all the players motivated. I try to be a part of everything and push everyone as hard as I possibly can because they’re awesome players and they can do it.”
Q: Being the lone senior on the team, how much have you had to step up your leadership role this season?
FLANAGAN: “A lot. It was pretty hard, but everyone has helped out so much. It’s not only me who has been a leader this year. Everyone has contributed so much, and we’re just so together that we don’t ever really need like one person [to be a leader].”
Q: A lot of people probably do not know what a libero is. If you were to give a definition of a libero, what would it be?
FLANAGAN: “You are supposed to be the best defensive player on the court, so you have to play at that level all the time.”
Q: Libero is probably the one position in volleyball that does not get a lot of attention. Do you really care if you get a lot of attention as a libero?
FLANAGAN: “I don’t really care that much. It’s so much better when I get like a perfect pass and [the Pioneers’] Taylor [Wilson], Haley [Libs] or Jacquie [Hornung] spikes it straight down. That just fires me up and I’m just living through them. Everytime they hit the ball, I feel like I’m part of that.”
Q: Coach Purichia has stressed “tunnel vision” to your team all season. How much do you girls focus on mental toughness?
FLANAGAN: “That’s one of the biggest things that we focus on all the time because the talent is there. But sometimes when we get frazzled, it doesn’t matter how good we are because we just don’t play as good as we should. Tunnel vision is very important to us as far as knowing what we need to do and going in and getting it done. You can’t focus on the crowd and the sidelines. It’s just focusing on what we can do and getting everything done.”
Q: You will play Wapahani in the championship match. When I say Wapahani, what comes to mind?
FLANAGAN: “I’m not real sure. I’ve never seen them before and I really don’t know much about them. But I know what we can do and I know that we can win a state championship this year. It doesn’t really matter who is on the other side.”
Q: Have you ever been to Ball State before?
Q: Well, you are going to get your first opportunity to go to BSU, so how excited are you to get up there?
FLANAGAN: “I’m very excited. I’ve been looking forward to this the whole season. It’s what I have been thinking about during every game.”
— Interview conducted by News and Tribune sports reporter Kevin Harris