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November 7, 2013

VOLLEYBALL: It’s the Pioneers’ time

Providence expects to bring home the state trophy

CLARKSVILLE —  Prior to last Saturday’s Class 2A semistate at Forest Park, Providence volleyball coach Terri Purichia did her best Lou Holtz impression.

Purichia heaped praise upon the Sparkplugs and their top player, Melanie McHenry. Speedway, she conjectured, would give the her Pioneers all they could handle.

Instead, Providence dispatched McHenry and the Sparkplugs in straight sets, 25-16, 25-21, 25-15.

On Tuesday, Purichia gushed about the Pioneers’ state finals opponent, Hammond Bishop Noll.

“Speedway had a very good player,” Purichia said of McHenry. “Bishop Noll has three very good players. We’re in a different situation this week because this team has unbelievably good athletes.”

So does Providence. And more of them.

The Pioneers have won 16 matches in a row and 28 of their last 29. They swept ranked Class 4A powerhouse Columbus East, which had earlier handed the Pioneers one of their four losses, in the regular-season finale and haven’t dropped a set in the tournament.

In fact, Providence hasn’t dropped a set since September. It hasn’t lost to a team from Indiana since Sept. 7.

It’s simply the Pioneers’ year.

“I expect us to do what we have to do to win [the state title],” Purichia said. “Anything can happen and [Noll is] certainly capable of beating us, but I feel like if we go in execute the game plan, then we should be able to win it.”

“It’s been our goal since the beginning of the year to take state,” senior defensive specialist Mary Kate Meyer said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge. Bishop Noll is good and it’s definitely going to be a battle. But we have the highest expectations. We’re going to give it all we have and hopefully come back state champions.”

Of course, Providence has been No. 1 in the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association Class 2A poll all season because it has the most talented and skilled volleyball team in its class. The Pioneers also have team outstanding chemistry.

“We’ve been playing together since we were children,” Meyer said. “We have great team chemistry. We love the sport and we love each other.”

“Everything is special about this team,” Purichia said. “It’s the perfect combination of great kids with great talent, superior work ethic that is so dedicated. They have a great chemistry together — on the floor and off the floor. They’re extremely determined. They’ve set it in their minds when they were in fifth and sixth grade that [a state championship] is what we’re working for. They’re going to do whatever it takes.”

On top of superior talent, skill, dedication, work ethic and chemistry, Providence also enters Saturday’s state championship match with an edge in experience. Nearly everyone on the Pioneers’ roster played in last year’s state championship loss to Wapahani.

“Last year, we were nervous going into it,” senior middle hitter Maile Daniel said. “All the excitement kind of overwhelmed us. This year, we’ve already been through it. We’re excited, but we don’t have to be nervous.

We’re the home team this year.”

“We’ve had the experience,” junior Maddie Bivens said. “We’ve been there. We know how it is. It will make it an easier road.”

After denying that Wapahani had an edge a year ago because of its state finals appearance the previous year, Purichia is now convinced that it could be a factor.

“I never really thought experience mattered much,” Purichia admitted. “I thought it was just another game. That’s not the truth. Experience really matters. That’s why I feel like this year will be different.”

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