November 20, 2015

Providence goes ‘the distance’ to win state volleyball title for third consecutive year

Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School players and coaches are pictured with the Class 3A state volleyball trophy on Nov. 7 at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena in Muncie. (Submitted photo)

Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School players and coaches are pictured with the Class 3A state volleyball trophy on Nov. 7 at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena in Muncie. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Terri Purichia knew she had to try something she had never done to win a third straight state championship with the volleyball team of Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville.

After all, the star-studded nucleus of the championship teams of 2013 and 2014 had just graduated, and Purichia hadn’t yet formed the same close connection with all six seniors on the 2015 team.

“I was really close to the group that graduated last year, and only two of this year’s seniors had been on the varsity before this season,” says Purichia.

So in her first meeting with this year’s seniors, Providence’s head coach for the past 17 years used the analogy of marriage and dating before making this agreement with the group.

“We decided we were going to go on ‘dates’ to get to know each other before we get married,” Purichia notes. “We’d go on walks after practice, go out for dinner, go for ice cream. And when they got frustrated with me or I got frustrated with them, we’d get together again, and we’d get through it.

“By the end, we really learned to trust each other and love each other. We knew that having that good relationship was the key to getting things done.”

This year’s Providence team “got things done” in a big way on Nov. 7 when they defeated the top-ranked team from Yorktown High School to earn the Class 3A Indiana High School Athletic Association volleyball championship.

The win in 3A followed the two previous championships for Providence in Class 2A. It’s a success many people didn’t envision for a team that had lost five strong players to graduation and this year played at the consistently stronger 3A level. In response, Purichia established this year’s slogan, “We’re not rebuilding. We’re reloading.”

“We felt this was very appropriate for this team because we had a ton of talent left,” the coach says. “We didn’t want the comments of others to affect what this team could do. The majority of people thought we would take a tumble. But the girls weren’t willing to listen to other people’s expectations. They wanted to set their own path.”

The road to the state championship was a challenging one, as Providence faced six ranked teams along the way.

The road to the state championship also provided a consistent—and unusual— spike of humor and support from the parents of the Providence players.

In what has become a tradition for Providence during the state tournament, parents of the players wear theme-based costumes to tournament matches. In keeping with this team’s tournament theme of “Going the distance,” dads dressed up as the underdog boxer “Rocky” of movie fame—complete with boxing gloves, black eyes, and red-white-and-blue shorts or gray sweat suits. The moms donned red berets mimicking Rocky’s wife, Adrian.

“We knew we were going to take our punches. We knew we would get hit hard, and we’d have to get back up,” Purichia says, playing off the pre-game talks she gave her team.

The parents’ energy reflected the overall enthusiastic support that the team received from what Purichia fondly calls “the Providence family.”

“This is a spectacular time to be a Pioneer,” she says. “I couldn’t be more proud.”

Purichia has an extra measure of pride for the six seniors: Jacquie Hornung, Alyson Bass, Mandy Barney, Anna Wingate, and twin sisters, Audrey and Claire Shannon. Audrey was chosen by the Indiana High School Athletic Association as the recipient of the Class 3A Mental Attitude Award.

“The seniors are a great group of kids,” Purichia says. “Their attitude, their work ethic and how they led the team were instrumental in our postseason run. I was so proud of them for not backing down from a challenge.”

She pauses and adds, “There’s so much joy. It’s truly a dream come true.” †

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