CLARKSVILLE — Terri Purichia was going to retire.
At least the Providence coach thought she was when she and her husband, Jeff, called a family meeting a few years ago.
Purichia was in the midst of guiding the Pioneers to three straight state championships, but was mulling retirement as the eldest of her three daughters — Maggie, Anna and Grace — was about to start high school.
“I said, ‘I’m thinking about possibly retiring because I really would like a chance to be your mom in high school. And I just want to get your opinion on what you guys think about it,’” Purichia recalled saying.
Her oldest daughter, Maggie, was up first.
“Maggie, of course, in Maggie’s sweet personality said, ‘You know mom I would love for you to be my coach, but I understand [if not]. Whatever you think is best. I’ll support you either way,'" Purichia recalled her saying.
Middle daughter Anna had a similar response. But then came the youngest, Grace.
“She’s a little feistier,” Purichia explained. “She said, ‘Let me get this straight. You coached all these teams for all these years, and you’re going to give up on us?’ I looked at my husband and I looked at my kids and I said, ‘Well that’s what this meeting’s about, I just wanted to know your feelings.’ She goes, ‘Well, that just makes me mad!’
"I looked at my husband and I said, ‘OK, point taken. I guess I will continue to be the coach.’”
Fast-forward to this past Saturday. The Pioneers (28-1) won their ninth straight sectional title with Purichia on the bench and all three of her daughters — Maggie, now a senior middle hitter; Anna, a junior outside hitter; and Grace, a freshman defensive specialist/setter — contributing. All four will be back at it Saturday when No. 3 Providence plays in the Class 4A Bloomington North Regional.
‘ALL THEY’VE EVER KNOWN’
Terri Purichia is in her 21st year as the head coach at Providence. She was in her third year when Maggie was born. It wasn’t long before Maggie and, soon thereafter, her younger sisters became regulars at Pioneer practices.
“My mom would pick them up from school every day and they would come here and stay with me from 3 to 6 and 6:30 sometimes, back in the day it was 7,” Terri Purichia recently recalled. “We’d have a bag full of Goldfish and their Big Wheels and they would just run in and out of the courts. The girls on the team were like their sisters and they would come and play in the locker rooms. They would set up shop and they’d play house and babies. This has just been their home — their home away from home — since they were old enough to walk.”
Not surprisingly, Grace took her first steps while Purichia was giving a lesson.
“I was standing on a box and Kattie Kochert was setting and Kattie started screaming “Coach P! Coach P! You’ve got to look! You’ve got to look!’” Terri remembered.
That wasn't the first, or last, memory made on the court. Just one of many.
"This is really kind of all they’ve ever known. We’ve never really had a fall, it’s just volleyball season," Purichia said.
Growing up the Purichia girls regularly sat behind the Providence bench during matches. One time, though, the youngest disappeared.
“We were playing New Albany and I remember looking up in the stands, because [Grace] used to sit right behind us on the bench when she was really young. I looked in the stands and she was not with my mom, or my husband, or some of those go-to kids that she played with. So I thought, ‘Oh crud!’” Terri recalled.
So, while the match was going on, Purichia asked one of her managers to go look for Grace. A short time later he returned, laughing.
“A couple minutes later I see Grace trailing and she gets to me and she looks like a clown — she just had so much makeup on, she had red lipstick from here to there,” Terri recalled with a laugh of her own. “She had been in [the locker room] going through the girls’ purses and getting all their makeup on. She was like, ‘Hi Mommy! The girls said I could use their makeup.’ ... And we were all just cracking up."
PLAYING FOR MOM
It wasn’t long, though, before the Purichia children were playing for their mom, first in grade school and club ball and later in high school. However it wasn’t always easy, especially when work followed Terri home.
“I just recognized very early, and I got a lot of good advice from people, that you’ve got to be able to put it away," she said. "They put it away a lot better than I do, so sometimes I just have to go to another room, or go to the grocery store, or something, when I’m upset about something so that I don’t say things that I regret. Because I kind of learned early in their career that once you say it you can’t take it back, so I have to be able to separate myself. I’ve gotten a lot better over the years at doing that. I’ve said things to my kids that I wouldn’t say to other kids and it bothers me as a mom, because it was hard for me to learn that line, and I had to learn it."
It was a lesson she learned the hard way.
Terri recalled one particular practice early in Anna's freshman year.
“One day early in the season she was not particularly having a good day and I just went at her,” Terri remembered. “I don’t really yell at kids a lot, I’m a lot more patient and calm, but I just really ran her down the road.”
A few minutes later then-assistant coach Zach McCrite approached Purichia.
“He said, ‘Hey, is everything OK?’ I kind of went on a big rant on Anna and what she was doing," Terri recalled. "And he said, ‘Let me ask you something, would you have done that to…’ and he named a player. And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘Would you have yelled at her like you just did at Anna?’ And I said, ‘No, probably not.’ He said, ‘Terri, your kids deserve the same Coach P that everybody else gets.
“It was like a gut-punch. And I was like, ‘You know what, you’re right.’”
Since then she has tried to keep that in mind.
“I feel like I’ve done some days better than others, but I’ve just really tried to do that, and treat my kids as every other player, and that’s how we’ve gotten through these high school years for sure,” Terri Purichia said. “I’m definitely harder on them than I am on other people, for sure. But I’ve learned how to simmer down a little bit because of the help of my staff, for sure, and my friends. And my mom doesn’t really like it when I get after them. So I have to keep that in check as well.”
Indeed, a little advice Terri's own mother, Nancy Blunk (who wears a t-shirt with Purichia-cubed on the back, along with all of her granddaughter’s uniform numbers), gave her several years ago has stayed with her.
“Early, when my kids were little, it was really hard,” Terri recalled. “There was a year that I was like, ‘I can’t juggle all of this.’ And my mom said, ‘Your kids will appreciate this some day Terri. You are doing something you love to do and they’re going to appreciate it.'
“I saw that as they got older. They did appreciate that I had so much love for this program and so much love for this school. And, I think that they have just been so proud of everything that we’ve done here and I’m just so thrilled that they’ve been part of successful teams while they’re a part of it. Because I was really worried when we started moving classes, and all of that kind of thing, that when my kids got here that they wouldn’t have the same sort of successful seasons and great things happen to them that people that they had watched while they were sitting in the stands had. But it has just been like a little fairy tale. The teams that they’ve been on have just been so much fun and had great, great success.”
'A SPECIAL YEAR'
The Pioneers have had a lot of success in Maggie’s four years of high school, posting a 133-11 record thus far.
This season Providence won its first 19 matches before being swept by No. 1 New Castle on Sept. 21 in Indianapolis. The Pioneers have won nine in a row since then, dropping just one set in the process. Last Saturday, Providence captured its ninth straight sectional title, sweeping New Albany in the final. Afterward all five Purichias posed for a picture with the championship trophy.
“This year is a special year,” Jeff Purichia said. “I’ve said it since the beginning of the summer. I said, ‘Girls we’re going to have a blast this year, because it’s a one shot deal and I’m excited to see everybody play together and travel together for the same team.’”
As the only male in the Purichia household, Jeff described his duties as “[I] just wash uniforms and go where I’m supposed to go. That’s what I do in a house full of women. I try my best to do that and make sure everybody stays happy.”
And this season has been full of happiness — and success — for the Purichias.
Anna (150) and Maggie (129) rank third and fourth, respectively, on the team in kills while Maggie tops the Pioneers in total blocks (101). Grace, meanwhile, is second in aces, third in assists and fifth in digs.
“It’s kind of like our dream come true,” Anna said. “I’ve personally got to play with Maggie, but I’ve never got to play with Grace before. It’s really fun just to have everybody in my family here; it’s just something new.
“It’s just fun to come home and talk about all the funny stuff that happened at practice, or something funny that happened during a game. It’s just fun for everybody to know what I’m talking about and everybody to be on the same page.”
“It’s been a really good season and it’s been a really, really busy season,” Terri added. “Being a coach of the program can be overwhelming at times, so I have just tried to focus on the things that we have to do for the team and I haven’t gotten to really reflect too much on all three of them being there. But the other night, on Maggie’s Senior Night, I was able to wiggle the lineup a little bit so that all three of them could be on the court at the same time. That was a very special moment because that hasn’t happened all year, so that was really neat.”
Of course something that would make the season even more special would be a state championship. It’s something Purichia has experienced before, but never with her daughters on the team. It’s also something she knows will be difficult to do given the fact that the Pioneers are playing up two classifications due to the IHSAA’s Success Factor. If Providence can make it through Saturday’s regional it would likely face top-ranked New Castle in the semistate.
“None of these seniors have a state championship and they’re probably some of the best players to come through the program,” Terri said. “So it would be really, really, really special, not just because I have kids on the team, but because I have great seniors that deserve to go out on top. As good as our team is, and I know that we have a team that can win a state championship, I also know that there are so many teams in our path that are really, really good too. So I don’t take for granted what this team is capable of doing, but I also don’t think by any stretch it’s going to be an easy road.”
Whenever, and wherever, that road ends, it will likely be an emotional finish. However the Purichias will face it, just as they have everything else this season, together. As a family.