By KEVIN HARRIS
Nov. 3, 2012 was a heartbreaking day for the Providence volleyball team.
On that date at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena, the Pioneers lost in their first appearance in an IHSAA state championship match to Wapahani in the Class 2A state final, 22-25, 25-15, 25-6, 25-22.
Shortly after that gut-wrenching setback, the Providence players began an ambitious quest to return to Muncie and capture the program’s first-ever state championship.
In their return to the Class 2A state championship match on Saturday at Worthen Arena, Class 2A No. 1 Providence concluded its year-long mission with a 25-18, 25-15, 25-20 victory over unranked Hammond Bishop Noll to claim the coveted state crown.
The Pioneers (36-4) did not drop a set during the entire state tournament. Plus out of the 21 postseason sets it played, Providence gave up 20 or more points just three times.
“Anything outside of this match was going to be a failure,” said Providence coach Terri Purichia, who guided her alma mater to the IHSAA State Finals for the fifth time in her Pioneers’ coaching tenure. “This group takes their goals very seriously and they were so determined. We knew that Bishop Noll was a very good team, and we felt like we knew the things that we needed to do in order to win. Outside of a couple of stretches here and there, we were able to do that.”
For the three Providence seniors — middle hitter Maile Daniel and defensive specialists Mary Kate Meyer and Abby Spitznagel — they ended their high school careers on the ultimate high note. Like the rest of their teammates, they will remember Saturday’s championship match for their entire lives.
“I just think it’s unfathomable. It’s definitely the best day of my life so far,” Meyer said. “This is going to be the highlight of my career. It’s awesome to be able to bring it back for such a dynasty at Providence and all the teams that have gone through it. This is all for them and for our families. It’s amazing.”
Daniel said her emotions were getting the best of her before the match even ended.
“I was crying before the game was even over. At [22-19 in the third set], I was balling my eyes out. It literally was so overwhelming walking off that court. I was so full of joy,” the 5-foot-10 senior said. “It’s a very indescribable feeling. It’s just amazing that I can experience this as a senior.”
Spitznagel, who won the Class 2A Mental Attitude Award, said her and her teammates have been thinking about redeeming themselves in the Class 2A state championship all season.
“In the back of our heads, this was our final destination,” Spitznagel said. “We worked for it every day. We knew this was going to be our final goal to achieve, and we just kept working for this moment right here. This is what we worked for in practice. It’s definitely unreal.”
Throughout the state tournament, Providence junior Taylor Wilson declared this was the year the Pioneers were going to win the state championship.
The 5-10 middle hitter backed up each word on Saturday with a fabulous performance. Wilson spiked a match-high 14 kills and made a match-high eight blocks. She was nearly unstoppable at the net as Bishop Noll had no answer for her. Plus Wilson got the job done in the serving department with a match-high 18 1/2 service points.
Wilson provided the Pioneers a jolt of energy when they needed it. For instance, Wilson sat down for a breather in the late stages of the third set. The Warriors (30-10) took advantage of Wilson’s absence with a 7-2 run that trimmed a 19-12 deficit down to 21-19.
But once Purichia put Wilson back into the match at 22-19, the Pioneers’ intensity picked up again and sealed the victory as they scored three of the match’s final four points.
“We wanted it so bad — we weren’t losing,” Wilson said. “I told Coach in the locker room we weren’t losing the game and I meant it. I was giving her everything in my power to not lose the game and we did it.
It’s a team sport and we all played good and we played together.” Purichia said following last year’s state championship loss, she noticed the determined look on Wilson’s face and knew a state title was very important to her standout middle hitter.
“The vision that I had not been able to get out of my mind since we left this gym last year was Taylor’s face. I don’t know if I have ever met a more determined kid,” Purichia said. “She had her eyes on this. She was not going to allow anything else but to win this. I thought she played very, very well.”
Wilson’s energy definitely rubbed off on her teammates, and it showed on the stat sheet.
Providence junior outside hitter Haley Libs delivered 12 service points and 11 kills. Pioneer sophomore outside hitter Jacquie Hornung had a solid all-around match with 10 service points, seven kills, five digs and four blocks.
Providence junior setter Patricia Mattingly recorded a double-double with a match-high 33 assists and 11 digs. Providence sophomore libero Audrey Shannon made a match-high 15 digs.
“I thought Jacquie played very well. Audrey, Patricia, Maddie [Bivens] — they just all stepped up and made this team very hard to beat,” Purichia said.
Junior Carly Cappello paced Bishop Noll with a double-double, recording team highs in kills (14) and digs (13). Cappello also had a team-high 14 service points.
The Warriors led the match only once, which stunned Purichia. Bishop Noll’s lone lead came early in the third set. They went up 2-1 when Mattingly tapped the ball and grazed the antenna. Bishop Noll extended the advantage to 3-1 after a Cappello kill. But Providence answered with four unanswered points to go up 5-3 and did not relinquish the lead after that.
“It very much surprised me because we watched a great deal of tape on them, and we did not look at this as an easy task,” Purichia said after learning Bishop Noll led just once. “I thought their outsides both played very, very well, and they did some things to kind of trip us up a time or two. But again, that shows that our team can make some adjustments and come back firing at them again.”
A few minutes after winning the state championship, Purichia reflected on what her program and her alma mater just accomplished.
“It is such a special feeling that I have right now,” she said. “I have been overwhelmed with emotion all day. I woke up this morning just feeling in my heart that we were going to be able to bring back a state championship to the Providence volleyball program that has so much rich tradition and so many people that care so deeply about this team, this program and this school. I just believe in Providence and
what it stands for so much. I would like for the school to be recognized because of the great accomplishments that these kids are able to do.
“For me as an alumnus and as a former player and for me as someone who loves Providence High School as much as I do, I really can’t put it into words. It’s just such a special day.”
Note: Providence will remain in Class 2A next season according to the guidelines in the IHSAA’s success-factor rule. IHSAA sports information director Jason Wille said the rule would not apply to the Pioneers until the IHSAA goes through its next reclassification process in the 2015-16 school year. Wille also said Providence must win the regional title next season to gain enough points in the success-factor system to be moved up to Class 3A in 2015-16.
The success-factor rule went into effect this academic year.
CLASS 2A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
PROVIDENCE 3, HAMMOND BISHOP NOLL 0
Hammond Noll 18 15 20
Providence 25 25 25
Aces — Hammond Noll: Katherine Jerge 1, Andriana Howard 1;
Providence: Jacquie Hornung 1, Audrey Shannon 1.
Assists — Hammond Noll: Emily Johnson 12, Brittany Anderson 9;
Providence: Patricia Mattingly 33, Maddie Bivens 3, Shannon 3, Carlie
Combs 1, Abby Spitznagel 1.
Blocks — Hammond Noll: Carissa Jones 3, Asya Hobbs 2; Providence:
Taylor Wilson 8, Hornung 4, Combs 2, Haley Libs 2, Maile Daniel 1.
Digs — Hammond Noll: Carly Cappello 13, Johnson 6, Delaney Soto 6,
Jones 5, Anderson 4, Cortney Kielbania 3, Hobbs 2; Providence: Shannon
15, Mattingly 11, Bivens 6, Hornung 5, Wilson 4, Mary Kate Meyer 3,
Libs 2, Combs 1, Daniel 1.
Kills — Hammond Noll: Cappello 14, Hobbs 7, Jones 2; Providence:
Wilson 14, Libs 11, Hornung 7, Combs 5, Daniel 3, Mattingly 3, Bivens
Service points — Hammond Noll: Cappello 14, Hobbs 8, Jones 4;
Providence: Wilson 18 1/2, Libs 12, Hornung 10, Combs 6, Daniel 3 1/2,
Mattingly 3, Bivens 1, Shannon 1.