CLARKSVILLE — Saturday, several high-quality teams from all over the state descended on Providence to try and drop the Pioneers from the unbeaten ranks at the 38th annual Early Bird Invitational.
None of them could.
Senior outside hitter Courtney Glotzbach and junior outside hitter Ali Hornung led the way for Providence (13-0), which won four matches en route to its sixth straight title.
It didn’t come easy in a very competitive tournament.
“Everyone is going to give us their very best game, we have to give them our very best game,” Providence coach Terri Purichia said. “We have to come to the understanding that we have to bring our 'A' game every match.”
Class 4A No. 2 Providence played from behind for much of the tournament, dropping a set to Cathedral in its first pool-play match before rallying for a 18-25, 25-15, 15-7 win. The Pioneers then beat Fishers 25-19, 25-19 to join Brownstown Central and Roncalli in the Gold Division round robin.
Providence got a tough match from 3A No. 3 Brownstown Central in the semifinals. The Braves won a back-and-forth first set to put the Pioneers in yet another “playing-from-behind” scenario.
Brownstown Central led 12-6 when a kill by Glotzbach sparked a 7-0 run by the Pioneers. Freshman setter Grace Purichia, the coach's daughter, capped the surge with an ace and Providence led 13-12.
The score stayed tight until the Pioneers got a little breathing room after a kill by Hornung gave Providence a 21-18 lead. But Brownstown Central closed it out with a 7-1 run to take the first set 25-22.
“We’ve got to play from the whistle,” Coach Purichia said.
Providence didn’t allow itself to get into a hole in the second set, taking an early lead and building on it. A block by junior Lydia Rush put the Pioneers on top 15-11 and it was 20-13 after an ace by Hornung. Senior middle hitter Maggie Purichia took over from there, her block and kill helped the Pioneers to a 25-17 win – setting up the winner-take-all third set.
In the third, it was tied 3-3 when Providence’s front line took control. Three kills by Hornung led the way as the Pioneers surged to an 11-5 lead. A pair of blocks by Maggie Purichia iced the 15-9 win.
Next up for the Pioneers was Roncalli, which beat Brownstown Central 25-19, 25-21 prior to taking on Providence. Perhaps this was the wake-up call the Pioneers needed.
“They have another gear when they need it,” Coach Purichia said of her team.
Against Roncalli it was 6-6 in the first set when three kills by Glotzbach paced the Pioneers to a 13-8 lead. A kill by junior outside hitter Anna Purichia made it 17-9.
Roncalli fought back to make it 19-14 before a trio of kills by Hornung made it 23-16 on the way to a 25-17 first-set triumph.
On the cusp of the invitational title, Providence made quick work of the Rebels in the second set. The Pioneers led 8-4 when a pair of aces by senior Brynna Walthers were part of 12-0 run that made it 20-4 on the way to a 25-10 win and the title.
Providence was led by Hornung’s 32 kills and Glotzbach's 31over the four matches. Rush finished with 35 digs, Glotzbach had 33 and Hornung 22 while junior setter Emma Kaelin had 60 assists.
“I feel like this team is very special,” Coach Purichia said.