MUNCIE, Ind. - Penn High’s volleyball players came into the Class 4-A state championship game with a chip on their shoulders.
They left with blue ribbons around their necks.
Penn, unranked at the beginning of the season and considered an underdog against an Avon team ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 3 in the nation, reigned supreme again as the Kingsmen captured a second consecutive state volleyball championship, 3-1, at Ball State’s Worthen Arena on Saturday night.
Coach Sarah Hendricks’ Kingsmen beat Avon, 25-16, 17-25, 25-13, 25-18 to complete their championship run with a 38-1 record. Avon closes out at 39-1.
Kaitlyn Hickey, who led the Kingsmen with 18 kills, three aces and eight digs, was named the IHSAA mental attitude winner.
Penn will formally celebrate the state championship at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Large Group Instruction Room A at the school. Fans are asked to enter the school through Door A, the main entrance.
“I think 100 percent, these kids were underestimated” an emotional first-year coach Hendricks said as her team hoisted the trophy. “Even coming in here tonight, I know there were people who thought, ‘Avon is No. 1. Avon is ranked third in the nation. This is Avon’s game.’ And these kids, I said to them before the game, I believe that we’re going to win, and I need you to believe that we’re going to win. And they did.
“They lost eight seniors, they got a new coach, but they came out and played hard and worked hard.”
“They’re great kids and they deserve everything they get. Those (negative) things they heard all season pushed them. They saw the articles. They heard the talk. And Avon deserved it. They’re a great team. I’m not taking anything away from them. I know they work hard, too, but our kids came in and proved tonight that they’re a great team.”
Penn swept through the first game, going on a 9-2 run to close out the 25-16 victory. Avon roared back, kicking its frontline attack into high gear behind 6-foot-3 freshman Beth Prince. Prince had five kills to lead Avon’s 25-17 victory.
Penn’s Annie Drews, a 6-5 Purdue recruit, handcuffed Prince the rest of the match, allowing only two kills by Prince in the final two games as Penn racked up 25-13 and 25-18 wins.
Hickey crushed Avon with three consecutive kills for Penn’s final three points. She put the finishing touches on the state championship with a shot to the left corner.
“We started passing really well and we started playing together and hitting the holes,” Hickey said of rallying after the second-game loss. “We were learning about what they do and we figured it out and we played to our strengths. I just tried to be valuable all the way around. I was trying to hit deep every single time just to throw them off guard, and it was working.”
Drews and Becca Lira contributed 11 kills each to the championship effort. Jasmine Obren gave Penn a huge spark in the third set, and finished with nine kills. Jordan Brough had seven kills.
Emily Tavares had 43 assists and served on Penn’s critical 7-0 run in the third set that gave Penn a 14-7 lead. Lexi Ball contributed two aces, and Natalie Meert 13 digs. Lira had four blocks.
“In the second game, we weren’t passing the ball,” Hendricks said. “It looked to me like we were out of sync. Our nerves were getting the best of us a little bit. We just needed to relax. We always say, ‘Take care of business,’ and we weren’t taking care of business at that point.
“Before this game, we talked over and over about serve and pass, serve and pass. We knew that’s what’s going to win this game, and it did. When we weren’t passing, we lost. When we got back to our passing rhythm and we were serving aggressively, we were successful. We told our girls, we’re going to make serving errors, because we’re going after them, because if we don’t they’re going to get balls to their big hitters. We had to pull them off the net and get them out of their offensive strategy.”
PENN BEAT AVON, 25-16, 17-25, 25-13, 25-18
Kills: Kaitlyn Hickey 18, Annie Drews 11, Becca Lira 11, Jasmine Obren 9, Jordan Brough 7.
Assists: Emily Tavares 43.
Aces: Hickey 3, Lexi Ball 2.
Blocks: Lira 4, Obren 3, Hickey 2, Tavares 2, Brough 2, Drews 2.
Digs: Natalie Meert 13, Lira 9, Hickey 8, Ball 8.
Staff writer Curt Rallo: