By JON REITER
The Providence girls’ volleyball team advanced to its second straight semistate berth last night in dominating fashion, defeating Southwestern (Hanover) 25-8, 25-12, 25-20 at the Robert L. Larkin Center.
Class No. 2 Providence were particularly impressive in the first two sets, which they won over the Rebels in about a half-hour.
The youthful Pioneers, who have only one senior, lost a little bit of focus in the third set but still captured the program’s eighth regional crown with the straight set victory in front of a raucous home crowd dressed mainly in white.
Providence (33-4) advances to play against Eastern Hancock (27-9) in Saturday morning’s first semi-state session at Forest Park High School at 11 a.m. In the 7 p.m. championship match, the Pioneers could face an No. 4 Eastern Greene (35-2) squad that eliminated them in last year’s tournament and went on to the state finals.
“This is a big stage,” Providence (33-4) coach Terri Purchia said. “We have to remember that this is what it’s going to sound like on Saturday and that we need to focus on what’s going on on the court and not what’s going on outside of it. When we do that now, we plaly some pretty good volleyball.”
The lone Providence senior, libero Kylie Flanagan, opened the match and the Pioneers captured the first six points of the contest on her service en route to a convincing 25-8 first set win.
During the second set, sophomore middle hitter Taylor Wilson notched four consecutive aces on her serve as the Pioneers took a 12-4 lead on their way to a 25-12 win.
Wilson collected six aces as the Pioneer service kept the Rebel attack off-balance for most of the match. Providence served long, short, with pace and gently dunked soft serves over the net in collecting 17 aces as a team.
“Our preseason goal was to be one of the best serving teams in the state of Indiana,” Purchia said. “We think that if we can put pressure on the other team with our service, it’ll allow us to do some things on our end on offense that will help us be successful.”
Things tightened a little bit during the third set as the Rebels jumped out to a 12-7 lead following a Providence net violation. But the Pioneers kept chipping away, taking the lead for good following two consecutive aces by setter Patricia Mattingly at 19-18. A kill from Pioneer middle hitter Maile Daniel ended the match at 25-20.
“I think we came out a little bit complacent, but Southwestern definitely picked it up,” Purchia said. “They picked up every ball, no matter where they hit it, they made some great hustle plays, and they really started hitting the ball better.”
Mattingly controlled the Providence attack with 29 assists and contributed three kills and three service aces. During the third and final set, she got in rhythm with outside hitter Hayley Libs, who notched six of her game-high 14 kills as the Pioneers closed out the match.
Lexi Means, a 6-foot senior middle hitter, led Southwestern with seven kills and also had three service aces.
Purchia reiterated that her squad needs to play with “tunnel vision” on Saturday, as they did for the most part last night.
“When we did that tonight, and they did for the majority of the match, it was good stuff to watch, and we’re going to need more of that this weekend,” she said.
CLASS 2A REGIONAL
SOUTHWESTERN 8 12 20
PROVIDENCE 25 25 25
Southwestern: Anderson 14 assists. Mahoney 4 kills, 1 block; Means 7 kills, 2 blocks; Cline 4 kills.
Providence: Mattingly 29 assists 3 kills, 3 aces; Libs 13 kills; Wilson 9 kills, 6 aces; Daniel 5 kills.