By GREG MENGELT
When Terri Purichia moved back to Southern Indiana when her husband, Jeff, got a football coaching job 15 years ago, then-Providence athletic director asked Purichia to take over the volleyball program — on an interim basis.
Purichia was a volleyball star at Providence but had no head coaching experience.
“I was just going to be an interim [coach] until they found somebody,” Purichia recalled. “Fifteen years later I’m still kicking.”
It’s safe to say Purichia’s job is now secure after leading the Pioneers to the 2013 Class 2A state championship.
“Now it’s a passion,” she said. “I just love this school so much. I love this program. So many people worked to make it what it is. I feel very humbled to share in this experience with this team and this group of parents and our fans. It was a unique experience.”
On Wednesday, Purichia sat down with News and Tribune sports editor Greg Mengelt to talk about her team’s championship season as part of the News and Tribune “On the Spot” series. Part 2 of the feature will appear in Friday’s News and Tribune.
• QUESTION: You told me Saturday that you did things differently this year than last year when you lost to Wapahani in the state championship. What was different?
• PURICHIA: “It is a different feeling. I woke up Saturday very emotional because I was getting a lot of text messages and a lot of e-mails, the well-wishes that were coming in from former players and friends and family, it was — oh, my gosh — it was really special. But then I got myself collected. I really needed to focus on what was going on. The morning with the players was great. Everyone was really calm. It was very laid back. We stayed out of Muncie this year, so we had a little bit more of a bus ride. The girls enjoyed the bus ride. It was a bonding experience. That was really fun. When we came to Muncie, to the gym, it was a different feeling. The locker room was different this time. They were overwhelmed with anxiety. Last year before the game, we had a couple people crying because they were so nervous. When we walked into the warmup gym, they were loose. They were still laughing and having fun. That’s how we kept this group loose and we didn’t do that this year. This year I just let it take its own course and let them do what was comfortable for them. I felt like going out on the floor, we were in a much better mental position then we were last year. We had seen the crowd, we had seen the floor, we had experienced the TV timeouts, we had experienced all of it. They had never played in front of that many people before. I just decided I was not going to think about winning the state championship until it happened.”
• Q: At what point were you able to think about the possibility?
• PURICHIA: “In the third set, I called timeout. I was really upset of how they were looking past what was going on. Noll was making a run and we were letting them. I felt like they were celebrating a little too early. I just told them they needed to get refocused because they hadn’t won anything yet. If they continued to go through the motions, then they were going to have to go longer than they anticipated because Noll was going to take a game from them. When we came out of that timeout, I saw that look back in their eyes, like ‘Let’s get this done.’ When we came out and got that first point, and I’m not kidding, from that from moment on, tingling started up my toes and went up. I was tingly and started to sweat, my heart started racing. I looked at my assistants and said, ‘We’re going to win a state championship.’”
• Q: When players and coaches win championships, they inevitably say that the feeling is even greater than they expected. Is that how you feel after Saturday’s championship?
• PURICHIA: “I felt overwhelmed with emotion and when [the 25th point] hit, I just started crying and I couldn’t stop. I was so emotional and I did not anticipate that happening to me. I did not realize the emotion was going to take me. I was so overwhelmed with happiness. I was so proud of the team to bring it home to Providence for the first time.”
• Q: Before the state championship, you talked about the advantage your team had after playing for the championship the year before in the same venue. So would you say it was also a learning experience for you?
• PURICHIA: “Absolutely. I wanted it to be so fun and special for them [in 2012] that I allowed more distractions than I should have. I wanted to be so awesome, that I was like, ‘Let’s do this, let’s do that.’ So I probably made the schedule too full for them. In hindsight, I should have kept it a lot more routine. So we learned from that. I think our intentions were good, but in hindsight, it probably flipped what my intention was. I may have overstimulated them last year and made the hype just a little bit too much. This year, we wanted to keep it calmer, we wanted to keep it more routine, we wanted it to be more within our team and not so much outside distractions. That’s exactly how we did it.”
• Q: Let’s go back a few years. Was there a point when you saw the talent coming and said to yourself, “I may have a championship team on my hands at some point?”
• PURICHIA: “When this group of juniors was in sixth grade, they had been in the club system. They all kind of went to different schools, but we were able to say, ‘Ooh, that girl and that girl and that girl and that girl; We really might have a group here. Watching them improve themselves throughout the club systems and come to camp and doing private lessons, we knew we had a group that not only had some talent but that they were going over what every other group had done before them.”
• Q: I’ve thought for years that there are two team sports where hard work is a must. Talent will only carry you so far in basketball and volleyball. Except for rare examples, players have to be dedicated to the sport to excel. Repetition is so important. What does that say for a group of girls who are mostly juniors and already be so dominant?
• PURICHIA: “I’ve mentioned this probably four or five times in recent interviews. This is such a special group. They’re very good friends. They have a very unique chemistry both on and off the court. They care about each other. They care about us as coaches. We’re very close. They’re just so dedicated. They might want a break away from the sport, but they really won’t allow themselves to have it because they always have a goal they’re trying to reach. For them, the next state was a state championship.”
• Q: So since they’ve reached the ultimate goal, do you worry about a letdown for next year?
• PURICHIA: “No, because they’re going to be seniors. That, in itself, will put a different challenge ahead of them. I think they’ll be motivated by ending on a good note. They’ll also be motivated by doing things recent teams haven’t been able to do, like winning the Early Bird [Tournament at Providence] and repeat as sectional championship for the fourth year in a row. Those are some milestones that other teams in their lifetime haven’t accomplished. I think there will be a different set of goals for them. I know that getting back to the state championship match is something that they want. I also think there are enough things throughout the course of the season are there to keep them motivated. This junior class will be seniors and that will be the biggest thing to keep them hungry. They’ll want to go out the way they should go out — and that’s as winners.”
NOTE: Read Part 2 of the Terri Purichia “On the Spot” in Friday’s News and Tribune.