By KEVIN HARRIS
CLARKSVILLE – Prior to the 2017 season, Providence head coach Terri Purichia and her coaching staff wanted to put as many Class 4A teams as possible on their schedule to prepare the Pioneers for this year’s Class 4A state tournament. Providence got moved up from Class 3A to 4A this season because of the IHSAA’s success-factor rule.
According to Purichia, the emphasis on playing 4A opponents has made her team even better. She mentioned that after the Pioneers won both of its matches in the Pioneer Varsity Three-Team Invitational on Sept. 9 at Providence’s Koetter Auxiliary Gym.
The Pioneers defeated two Class 4A teams in the round-robin tournament. They swept Castle in their first match 25-6, 25-8, 25-20, followed by a 25-16, 25-15, 25-13 win over Carmel. Providence added Carmel to its schedule this season, while the Pioneers played Castle last year.
“We went and found any 4A team that had an opening and tried to fill ourselves in that hole,” Purichia said. “When we sat down at the beginning of the season and kind of looked at it, we were almost a little worried that we might have made it too hard. But it’s been great for (the Pioneers) because it just keeps them so focused, knowing that every single match you go into play, somebody on the other side can beat you.
“It keeps them motivated to do well in practice, and it keeps them motivated to come to the game ready to play. I think the competition that we face is the reason that they are getting so much better.”
Purichia has liked the way her young Pioneers (15-1) have progressed in 2017. She gives a lot of credit for that progression to her lone senior, All-State standout and Purdue recruit Marissa Hornung.
“I just think that Marissa is such a good leader. She’s molded this team to be exactly what she wants and they kind of fall in line. She’s the mama goose with all the little ducks behind her,” Purichia said. “(The Pioneers) are so far ahead of where we expected them to be at this point. We’ve done practices a little differently and we’re just seeing that pay so many dividends in how (the Pioneers) are playing. Their chemistry is fantastic. They really like each other. They work really hard.”
In the victory over Castle, sophomore Courtney Glotzbach led the Providence hitters with 11 kills, while Hornung had 10. Pioneer freshman Ali Hornung, Marissa’s younger sister, spiked eight kills and made a team-high 14 digs.
Providence setter Lilly Bivens distributed 34 assists and had seven digs, while teammate Madison Kruer made nine digs.
“The first two sets of the Castle match, (the Pioneers) played as well as they’ve played all season long. Their serving has just really been picking up. That forced Castle to be out of its system a little bit,” Purichia said. “(The Knights) have a tremendous outside (hitter) in No. 5 (Jessica Nunge). She’s an excellent player. But she wasn’t able to be effective because they couldn’t get her the ball. In the second and third sets, I felt like our passing to start it off broke down a little bit. We made a couple of mistakes that we haven’t really made. We got ourselves into a situation where we had to try to pull it out and they did, so that was good.”
Ali Hornung had a huge match in the Carmel triumph. She registered team-highs in digs (21) and kills (18).
Marissa Hornung wound up with 12 kills and 10 digs. Teammate Hanna Mitchell delivered nine kills and three blocks, and Bivens dished out 38 assists and made three blocks.
“I thought Ali had a tremendous game. She had 21 digs in a three-set match – that’s crazy,” Purichia said. “Marissa played well. Both of my middles are very, very effective, so we have a lot of people that can hit the ball. Lilly is doing an excellent job of mixing things up, so that kind of keeps the defense on the other side wandering who’s about to get it.”
PIONEER VARSITY THREE WAY INVITATIONAL
At Providence’s Koetter Auxiliary Gym
PROVIDENCE 3, CASTLE 0
Castle 6 8 20
Providence 25 25 25
Courtney Glotzbach: 11 kills.
Marissa Hornung: 10 kills.
Ali Hornung: 14 digs, 8 kills.
Anna Purichia: 5 kills, 2 blocks.
Lilly Bivens: 34 assists, 7 digs, 1 ace, 1 block.
Maggie Purichia: 1 assist, 1 block.
Madison Kruer: 9 digs, 1 ace.
Ceci Rush: 1 ace.
PROVIDENCE 3, CARMEL 0
Carmel 16 15 13
Providence 25 25 25
M. Hornung: 12 kills, 10 digs, 1 ace.
A. Hornung: 21 digs, 18 kills, 1 ace, 1 block.
Bivens: 38 assists, 4 digs, 3 blocks, 1 ace.
Rush: 1 ace.
M. Purichia: 1 ace.
Glotzbach: 4 kills, 2 blocks.
Hanna Mitchell: 9 kills, 3 blocks.
Kruer: 5 digs, 1 assist.