BLOOMINGTON — New Castle, the top-ranked team in the nation according to the Max Preps’ Top 25 rankings, was the only team to take multiple sets from Providence heading into Saturday’s final of the Class 4A Bloomington North Regional.
A Center Grove team with four Division I recruits took a tight first set — a 6-2 spurt after Courtney Glotzbach put the Pioneers ahead 16-15 was instrumental for the Trojans — and then carried that momentum into the second set for a 25-20 win. The Pioneers’ duo of Glotzbach and Ali Hornung, with some timely kills from junior Anna Purichia, helped the Pioneers even the match with victories in the third and fourth sets.
Center Grove didn’t let doubt creep in, bouncing back in the fifth to win 25-21, 25-20, 19-25, 24-26, 15-10.
Providence fell behind 10-5 before a small rally. Anna Purichia’s kill cut it to 13-10, but the Trojans got the side out on a Jamie Brown kill before finishing off the match.
“We made a couple crucial errors and in a 15-point set, you can’t do that. In a 15-point set, you have to be perfect and we weren’t. And [the Trojans] were,” Providence coach Terri Purichia said.
While the No. 9 Trojans seized momentum in that final set, they also did so in those first two sets. It was uncharacteristic of the Pioneers to be unable to regain traction.
When a couple calls went against Providence, Purichia had a discussion with the second referee that resulted in a yellow card being administered. As a result, Purichia was required to sit the remainder of the second set.
“[We] were just shook up. Center Grove played amazing. My team did not respond well to me losing my mind and having to sit down. It changed the momentum. I regret that. I don’t usually lose my cool; I really didn’t. All I said was, ‘That was horrible.’ I take full responsibility for those first two sets. That’s never really happened before.”
Regardless of the reason, the Trojans seized the moment in the middle of the second set.
Hornung was blocked by 6-foot-3 middle hitter Grace Boggess for a 13-9 Trojans’ advantage. Providence battled back with consecutive kills by Hornung and then Glotzbach to make it 13-11. Boggess delivered another kill to start a 5-1 run that made it 21-14.
Providence put those first two sets behind it and went to work.
“We struggled to pass in the first two sets. Once we got that under control then we started putting balls down, figuring out where to go, what shots to make. It’s a game of serve and pass. And we weren’t passing and we weren’t serving [at our normal level] in the first two sets,” Glotzbach said.
The third set was ignited by some high-flying swings from Glotzbach and Hornung, but also by Maggie Purichia’s blocking.
“Their two big guns started going off on us,” Center Grove coach Chris Due said. “We stopped executing our gameplan a little, but they started really going off. Courtney had a heck of a match and Hornung is a great player. We focused on them and they still went off on us.”
Anna Purichia put a ball to the floor for a 22-17 lead in that third set that helped the Pioneers finish it off.
“We just decided we weren’t gonna end our season like that,” Glotzbach said. “We just left every single thing we had on that court. In the end, they got it. But we left everything out there.”
Providence finishes its season 29-2 and ranked No. 24 in the Max Preps Top 25 and No. 3 in Class 4A in Indiana.
Glotzbach, a Jacksonville State recruit, led the Pioneers with 22 kills. Purdue recruit Hornung had 15. Both were dynamic and instrumental in the comeback effort.
“It’s been the best four years of my life with this group,” Glotzbach said. “This past season, has been the best of all four of them. This was a very special team and we’re sad that it ended here, but that last game — even though we lost — was an unbelievable way to finish.”
Center Grove (29-6) got 15 kills from sophomore outside hitter Katie Egenolf and 13 from Boggess. Wisconsin-bound setter Madison Hammill — a 6-1 senior — got the ball in the right places in the fifth set. The Pioneers’ blocking was key in the third and fourth sets.
“I told the girls that if we can win the serving, the passing battle and get the blocking going that we’d have a great chance to win. The first two sets we came out and did that,” Due said. “It’s been a long time for us. They beat me down when I was at Cardinal Ritter in semistate. They beat Center Grove the last few years. To finally get over the hump, means the world to them.”
For Providence, it’s the final games for Glotzbach, Louisville-bound libero Ceci Rush, Maggie Purichia, Ali Hughes and Brynna Walthers.
“Center Grove is a fantastic team and played better than I’ve ever seen them play,” Terri Purichia said. “I can’t ask for more. I’m very disappointed because I love this team so much and I wanted to see them go the distance. But Center Grove, we said in that fifth set, this is going to be a heartbreaker no matter what.”