JASPER – Momentum was key on Saturday afternoon, and the Class 3A No. 7 New Palestine Dragons seized it with their season on the line.
Down by a game, 2-1, to volleyball powerhouse Northview in the Jasper Semistate semifinals, the Dragons (27-10) played a near perfect fourth set to even up the match 2-2.
In the decisive fifth, they ran away for good, winning the game 15-12 and the match 3-2 to advance into the Indiana High School Athletic Association state tournament’s final four.
“After the first game, I was a little hesitant on how we were going to play and how we were going to do, but after that game, I told everyone we got it. Shake it off and let’s start playing our game,” New Palestine senior Kara Morris said. “We did and we pulled it off. I’m really excited to be in the final four.”
They will face No. 2 Providence (33-5) tonight at 7 p.m. in the semistate championship. Providence beat Evansville Memorial in Saturday’s semistate semifinals to advance into the title match.
The Providence Pioneers are seeking their fourth straight state title this fall after claiming the 2A championship in 2013-14 and 2014-15. They won the 3A state title in 2015-16 with a 37-3 record under head coach Terri Purichia.
New Palestine is navigating uncharted waters this postseason after winning the program’s first sectional title in 27 years and first-ever regional title.
Head coach Kelli Whitaker’s squad has now added their first-ever semistate match victory.
“This match was a battle. We didn’t play very well in the first and third sets but we came back and took care of business,” Whitaker said. “I just keep telling them to play their best. If we take care of our side, then good things will happen.”
The Dragons defeated No. 11 Cardinal Ritter 3-1 in the regional championship on Tuesday and are 15-3 in 18 sets total this postseason.
“We are very proud of what we accomplished so far, but we aren’t satisfied at the same time. We know that no matter what happens as long as we give our best we’re going to be happy with the outcome,” Whitaker said. “Obviously, we want to win, but we’re already so proud of what we’ve done this season.”
Northview (30-8) earned a semistate berth by winning their fourth straight regional title – and fifth overall – earlier this week. They defeated Western Boone 3-2 at regional and knocked off Sullivan (3-2), Owen Valley (3-1), and Brown County (3-0) to capture the team’s 10th sectional in program history.
The Knights were 3A state runner-ups in the 2014-15 state tournament.
New Palestine halted their quest at a return trip to the state finals by winning its semifinal 19-25, 25-18, 13-25, 25-11, 15-12.
Allison Dennemann led the Dragons with 29 kills and 30 digs. Mia Long had 18 kills and 18 digs. Kara Morris posted 18 digs and 47 assists. Lydia Jones had 23 digs.
The Dragons used a 7-2 run in the fourth game to take a 9-4 lead and pushed the advantage to 19-8 after a 10-2 run. A 6-2 finale pulled them into a 2-2 tie with Northview.
In the final game, New Palestine jumped in front 5-0, but Northview rallied back with a 6-0 run as the two teams locked into a pair of ties before the Dragons nailed down the win.
“We’re in the final four. One win away from the state championship. That’s really, really cool,” Whitaker said.