By KEVIN HARRIS
The Providence Pioneers shed lots of tears after falling to No. 1 Wapahani in the Class 2A state championship match on Saturday afternoon at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena.
But when you look at it, all you can do is smile and have positive thoughts about the Pioneers’ future.
Even though the second-ranked Pioneers say goodbye to senior libero Kylie Flanagan, they have 93 percent of their state runner-up roster back next season.
The 13 returning players include three sophomores who are the nucleus of the Providence offensive attack in outside hitter Haley Libs, middle hitter Taylor Wilson and setter Patricia Mattingly. Wilson and Libs combined for 725 kills in the 2012 campaign, while Mattingly dished out 949 assists.
Another young and talented player returning for Providence will be freshman outside hitter Jacquie Hornung, who made several key contributions during the Pioneers’ postseason run.
One person who definitely thinks the Pioneers have a chance to win a state championship in the upcoming years is Wapahani coach Mike Lingenfelter, who guided the Raiders to their second straight Class 2A state title on Saturday.
“My hat is off to those guys. Those guys are going to be a bear to deal with for the next couple of years. I don’t know if people realize how young they are,” said Lingenfelter, whose team will move up to Class 3A next season because of the IHSAA’s new success-factor rule.
But there is another reason why several people, including myself, think this group of Pioneers has an excellent shot to return to the Class 2A state championship match and win it in the future.
These girls are an extremely determined bunch and know how to use past heartbreaking losses as motivation.
A good example of that determination was this season’s Class 2A Forest Park Semi-state championship victory over fourth-ranked Eastern Greene on Oct. 27.
Most of this season’s Providence players competed in last year’s semi-state semifinal loss to the Thunderbirds, who ended up as the 2011 Class 2A state runners-up. Those Pioneers remembered how much that setback hurt and focused throughout the 2012 season on getting redemption against Eastern Greene.
When Providence finally got its chance to avenge its loss to the Thunderbirds at semi-state, the Pioneers took full advantage of it. Not only did the Pioneers beat Eastern Greene, they dominated the Thunderbirds with a 25-18, 25-20, 25-16 sweep.
That victory just shows how hungry the Providence players are to win a state championship, and no one knows that better than their veteran coach, Terri Purichia.
After Saturday’s loss, Purichia told me the Pioneers will be using the four-set setback to Wapahani, particularly their 25-6 loss to the Raiders in the third set, as inspiration for a potential return trip to the state finals next season.
“I know 25-6 is going to be the driving force in every one of their bellies for the next 365 days,” Purichia said. “I feel extremely confident to say that we will be back. The outcome of the next time we are put in this situation is going to be different because of the competitors that I have on this team that are coming back.”
Just to let you know, Coach, I feel extremely confident that your team will make its way back to state in the upcoming years, too.
Contact Kevin Harris at Kevin.firstname.lastname@example.org