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Sports Spotlight: Volleyball

This issue’s Sports Spotlight features two Volleyball players, junior Miranda Harley and senior Brynna Walthers. Their Q&As are below:

Miranda Harley, defensive specialist, is a junior in the House of Faith and a Student Ambassador. She has been playing volleyball since third grade and is in her third year on the Providence team.

Question: How did you get interested in the sport?
Answer: I just wanted to try something new in third grade and actually ended up loving the sport, making me want to play club volleyball as well.

Q: What do you like about being part of the PHS Volleyball team?
A: I love that being on the Providence team is like being a part of a second  family. I’m so close with every person on the team and have made so many good friends through the program.

Q: What are you looking forward to this season?
A: I’m really looking forward to postseason and the road to state!

Q: What has been your favorite service activity?
A: My favorite service project I’ve done is when the volleyball team all went to St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Charities Women and Children’s Home to help clean up the living space for the mothers and their kids. I really liked interacting with the women there and seeing how our simple actions brightened their day.

Q: What is your favorite subject in school?
A: My favorite subject is Spanish because I find it really interesting to learn the language as well as the culture.

Q: What is your favorite part about being a Pioneer?
A: My favorite part about being a Pioneer is the overall atmosphere here at Providence. Anyone can see that this is a school that values not only education, but also emphasizes all other aspects of student life.

Q: What are your college plans at this point?
A: Currently, I’m thinking about attending the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University Bloomington.

Brynna Walthers, senior defensive specialist, is in the House of Justice, a Student Ambassador, and a member of the Pinterest, ProLife, and Corn Hole clubs, the National Honor Society, and several service organizations. She has been playing volleyball since fourth grade and has played year round with club and school ever since.

Question: How did you get interested in the sport?
Answer: A lot of my friends were wanting to play, and I immediately loved it.

Q: What do you like about being part of the PHS Volleyball team?
A: I love being part of the PHS volleyball team because it is a second family with my teammates and coaches. We spend so much time together as we compete together, study together, do service together, and generally support each other constantly. It’s an amazing group of people!

Q: What are you looking forward to this season?
A: I’m looking forward to our volleyball team being really successful in our postseason, my senior retreat, and senior year-end activities with all my close friends.

Q: What has been your favorite service activity?
A: This year, my favorite service activity was when the volleyball team spent a day of service for St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Charities, and it was really special working together and accomplishing a lot of very helpful tasks for the residents and workers there.

Q: What is your favorite subject in school and why?
A: My favorite subjects in school would be a tie between language arts and history classes because I’ve had amazing teachers in both areas who have taught me so much about what I’m interested in long-term.

Q: What is your favorite part about being a Pioneer?
A: My favorite parts of being a Pioneer are the friends I’ve made and the faith-filled environment and awesome spirit of our school.

Q: What are your college plans at this point?
A: At this time, I’ve not decided which college I plan on attending, but I’m planning a career in law.

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Pioneer Profiles: A look at 4 more athletes

We continue with our fall sports student-athletes profiles. This week we feature seniors Bradon Dykes (Cross Country), Carson Carrico (Boys Tennis), and Hanna Mitchell (Volleyball), and sophomore Laura Strahm.

Bradon Dykes started running Cross Country for the first time his freshman year when he was looking for a new sport and has run been running since. He also participates in Track & Field in the spring. Here is his Q&A:

Question: Why did you first start participating in this sport?
Answer: I started because I needed a sport and didn’t want to play high school soccer.
Q: What do you like about this sport?
A: I like it’s simplicity.
Q: What are you looking forward to this season?
A: Hopefully, I’m looking forward to improving times.
Q: What is your favorite subject at school?
A: My favorite subject is science and always has been.
Q: What has been your most meaningful service project in high school?
A: My most meaningful service project was probably making and distributing lunches.
Q: What is the best thing about being a Pioneer?
A: Having friends.

Carson Carrico plays No. 1 singles for the Boys Tennis team, a sport he has played for seven years now. Tennis is a year-round sport for him, and he plays in USTA travel tournaments in the off season. He qualified to advance to individual sectionals although his team lost 2-3 to Jeffersonville last night in the opening round. Here is his Q&A:

Question: Why did you first start playing this sport?
Answer: I had watched my brother (Landon ’16, who plays men’s tennis at Hanover College) play, and it seemed like a really fun sport. Also, I had watched pros on TV, and it made me want to go hit even more.

Q: What do you like about this sport?
A: I like how rewarding tennis can be. If you hit every day during the summer, you’re going to get better. It’s a fun game I enjoy playing.

Q: What are you looking forward to this season?
A. Just having fun with the team and hopefully winning sectionals.

Q: What is your favorite subject in school?
A: Business. I plan on majoring in business at UofL or Bellarmine next year so it should help me prepare for college, and I find it interesting.

Q: What has been your most meaningful service project in high school?
A: Working the fish fry at OLPH has had the most impact. I get to give back to the school I went to for so many years and get to see people I grew up with.

Q: What is the best thing about being a Pioneer?
A: Everyone is goal-oriented, and we’ve achieved a lot over the past few years. Also, whether it’s in the classroom or on the court, I think Providence has really helped prepare me for college.

Hanna Mitchell is a middle hitter on the Volleyball team, a sport she has played for nine years, including the last four at Providence. Here is her Q&A:

Question: Why did you first start playing this sport?
Answer: I first started playing this sport when I met my best friend, Lilly [Bivens], who also plays it. She introduced it to me and told me I had to give it a try, so I did and I ended up loving the sport.

Q: What do you like about this sport?
A: I like a lot of things about this sport, but I love the competitiveness and being able to work as a team and have to communicate in order to succeed. I feel like it prepares me for my future and has really helped me become a better and more organized person.

Q: What are you looking forward to this season?
A: This season I’m looking forward to playing one more year with my friends and putting everything I have on the court.

Q: What is your favorite subject at school and why?
A: My favorite subject at school is math because I enjoy trying to solve problems and find the solutions to them.

Q: What has been your most meaningful service project in high school?
A: The most meaningful service project I think I’ve done is volunteering at Northside. I was able to help organize and pack up donated clothes for people who really needed them. I felt like I was really able to help, and it made me feel good.

Q: What is the best thing about being a Pioneer?
A: The best thing about being a Pioneer is coming to school every day and feeling like I’m at home. The community makes you feel welcomed and makes you feel like one big family.

Laura Strahm has been a cheerleader for seven years, and this is her second year on the PHS Cheer Squad. It is her only sport. Here is her Q&A:

Question: Why did you first start playing this sport?
Answer: I first started doing Cheer because I did dance when I was younger. Then my sister (Mikaela ’16) started gymnastics, and I wanted to try it and really liked it, which later led me to cheer.

Q: What do you like about this sport?
A: I love all of my teammates and how happy this sport makes me.

Q: What are you looking forward to this season?
A: I am looking forward to far away games and competitions because I always like driving up there with my teammates, and we have so much fun just spending time with each other. (The Cheerleaders will host a competition on Oct. 22 and then compete at regionals on Oct. 27. IASP State is Nov. 3).

Q: What is your favorite subject at school?
A: My favorite subject in school is math/algebra because I really like working out problems to find an answer, unlike other subjects where you have to study and know the facts to get a good grade. For math you have to know the formulas and how to work it out and you’ll most likely do well.

Q: What has been your most meaningful service project in high school?
A: My most meaningful service project at school was when I volunteered at the animal shelter with my friends.

Q: What is the best thing about being a Pioneer?
A: The best thing about being a Pioneer is knowing that you belong to a family and all the staff cares about you and wants you to learn to the best of your ability.

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Volleyball senior named All American

Senior Marissa Hornung has been named to the Under Armour First Team All American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. This places her as one of the top 24 volleyball players in the country. She will have the opportunity to play with and against those selected at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., on Friday, Dec. 15, in conjunction with the 2017 AVCA Convention. The game will be aired on the FloVolleyball channel.

Photo by Amy (Donner) Lorenz ’88

Marissa said she was shocked when she heard the news. She had been ranked No. 54 on the Senior Aces List by PrepVolleyball.com, was selected as the overall camp MVP at the 2017 Purdue Team Camp in the preseason, was selected to the Prep Volleyball Defensive Dandies First Team, was MaxPreps/AVCA Players of the Week for Indiana for the week of Aug. 21, was selected to the IHSVCA Coaches Association Class 4A First Team All-State and has been nominated for the second time for Gatorade Player of the Year, but she never thought she would be considered one of elite recruits in the country.

“I never expected to play in Kansas City and see other people placed on the list too,” she said. “It’s going to be a really good experience.”

Marissa said she is looking forward to the game because it will give her an idea of the faster pace of college volleyball – and as a Purdue recruit, playing with and against some of her future opponents at Nebraska, Michigan and Penn State.

She expects a number of changes once she starts playing in college, starting with her position. She has been an asset on the front row for the Providence varsity throughout her four years. By her senior year, she became the all-time dig leader at Providence with 1381 total career digs (a ball touched by blockers and then played by the defense), and the kill leader with 1556 in her career as a Pioneer, earning nearly 400 kills (point-scoring plays) this season alone. But at the college level, she anticipates moving to the back row because of her size. At 5-foot-seven-inches tall, she is at least five inches shorter than the shortest front-row college volleyball player.

What she doesn’t expect to change in college is one of the reasons she keeps playing volleyball – the friendships. Wherever she has played, from Union to Providence, she has made lifelong friends. She said she chose Purdue because it has the same sense of family that she has experienced at Providence.

Providence alumna Kathy Jewell ’94 is an assistant coach and has been a part of the coaching staff led by Coach Dave Shondell and his brother, John, for 14 years. That longevity helps her feel assured she will fit in with the players recruited by the Shondells. Another attraction to playing at Purdue is the program’s tradition of selling out every home game, so she can expect the same type of electric atmosphere she has experienced at Providence.

What she will miss is playing with her sisters, she said. Her first two years she played with older sister Jacquie ’16, who went on to play at IUPUI for one season and is now at Bellarmine. Playing with her was a chance to play with her idol, to learn from her and to talk with her about their ups and downs on the court. This year, she was the older sister to freshman Ali and she enjoyed “sitting back and watching her shine wearing that jersey.”

When Ali hurt her ankle in the semi-state loss to Avon, Marissa said that as her big sister, she wanted to break down but as the team captain she knew she had to motivate her teammates. So she put her feelings aside and worked to get the team’s mindset back on the game. Still, it was hard not playing her last game with Ali on the court with her.

“It definitely was not the way I wanted it to end, but I have no regrets because of how many games we did get to play this season,” Marissa said.

Marissa said that even though she won’t be playing with (or even against) one of her sisters, she is looking forward to playing in college because she gets to keep playing the game she loves. She started out as a softball player, and her travel team won the World Series one year. But as she began to play for Union Volleyball, she stopped playing softball. She played basketball some too and was on the PHS Girls Basketball team for two years. But volleyball soon became her focus.

Playing volleyball, especially on a team that won 2A and 3A state titles and nearly made it to the 4A state championship, has prepared her for life after high school. As an athlete, she said, she has learned to balance the demands of school, practice and homework – and made the Principal’s List along with sister Ali for the first quarter. She also has learned that to succeed, she must have an “inner passion” to achieve her goal.

But her decision to focus only on volleyball came easily when she realized “there never was a day that I thought, ‘I don’t want to go to volleyball,’” she said.

“I just enjoy playing so much,” Marissa said. “Maybe it’s the people I played with, but it also has to do with just the sport itself.”

Marissa is undecided about the major she intends to pursue at Purdue but anticipates it will be in the communications field.

Coach Purichia gets 500th career win

It was just three years ago that Coach Terri (Blunk) Purichia ’90 earned the milestone of 400 career wins. Late last month, she brought that total up to 500 with the team’s win over 4A Hamilton Southeastern in the Lawrence North Invitational. For Coach Purichia, the number snuck up on her – like her players did with the water bottle bath they gave her in the locker room after the victory. For her, coaching isn’t so much about counting the wins as enjoying the time with her players.

“I just love the players,” she said. “I got into it for the kids, not the wins, not state championships. It’s the kids. That still drives the bus.”

Winning may not be her goal, but her love of the game, of coaching and of her players has continued the winning tradition started by her own coach, Dottie (Galligan) Zipp ’69. In Purichia’s first year as PHS head coach, she took her team to the state finals. She returned seven times, winning the state title three times – in both two 2A and 3A – plus two state runner up titles. She also has won 11 sectional, nine regional, and five semi-state championships. Now in her 19th season at Providence, her career-record stands at 511-180. During her 18 previous seasons, her teams have accumulated 15 seasons of 20 or more wins, seven seasons of 30 or more wins, and four seasons of 35 or more wins, including a school record 37 wins in 2015.

Coach Purichia gives the credit to the players for the recent string of winning seasons, state finals appearances and No. 1 rankings throughout the season whether the team has been aligned in 2A, 3A, or 4A.

“We’ve had the perfect mix of very good talent, great dedication, and really good team chemistry the last six to eight years,” she said. “It takes a lot of commitment from the players to see that turn into the success that we’re having.”

Providence’s success has also aligned with an emergence of volleyball powers in the southern half of the state, a change of the guard from when Muncie area and other northern teams held reign since girls’ volleyball began in the early 1970s. Part of the credit for the rise in the success of programs in the southern half of the state lies in the realignment that moved teams like Avon and Center Grove to the south.

But having a southern team win a state title also freed the mindset for other southern teams to win, she said, just like the PHS Girls Soccer 2011 1A state title did for girls’ sports at Providence. Providence was one of the teams to break that barrier for volleyball. In 2012, Providence was state runner up. In 2013, Providence claimed its first state title, and Barr-Reeve in Montgomery (southwest of Bloomington) won the 1A title. Christian Academy of Indiana was 1A runner up the next year and state champ the year after.

Coach Purichia peps up the team before a recent game.

As Coach Purichia looks at the competition this year for a 4A state title, she sees a tough road, with most of the competition in the south. The Lady Pioneers likely will face a top five team at every level of the postseason.

“The southern half is getting really good volleyball teams,” she said.

Coach Purichia’s players seem to think her success is due to her being “a volleyball addict,” a title they gave her after that water bottle bath. She laughs off that title but admits she is involved with local volleyball on all levels, from Deanery games to coaching club volleyball in the off season. She stays involved because she enjoys it.

“I’ll just keep going as long as I enjoy it,” she said. “I still really like to coach. Maybe I’ll make it as long as Dottie (Zipp, who coached at PHS 21 years and for many more years for club volleyball teams).”

Coach Purichia then realized she’s not too far from that number with 18 years behind her, 18 years she never imagined when then-Athletic Director Don Zipp (Hon. ’13) asked her to take the role on an interim basis.

“When Don hired me, he said, ‘Just take it for a year until I find a coach,’” she said. “I was young, just married, and had been an assistant coach at Noblesville,” so she agreed even though she was intimidated. “I got in here and thought, ‘This is pretty fun.’ I keep wondering if he ever found that coach!”

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