The past three years, the Providence volleyball team has outdone every opponent in the postseason.
Going for their fourth consecutive state championship in 2016 – for what could be their second in Class 3A – the No. 2 Pioneers wasted little time in their postseason opener against No. 13 Brownstown Central.
Providence spoiled the Braves’ home-court advantage, taking the first-round sectional win 25-12, 25-21, 25-5.
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In the first game, the Braves kept it close until the Pioneers went on a 5-0 run to take a 12-5 advantage.
A kill by the Braves’ Claire Pace ended the scoring string, and a pair of serves from Halle Hehman brought the score to within five at 13-8.
The Pioneers’ front line took control from there as they managed a 25-12 victory in the first game.
The teams tied seven times in the emotional gauntlet that was the second game.
A block from the Braves’ Richayla Huff and Ashley Schroer brought the score to 5-5 early.
The Braves took their first lead of the night at 8-7 on an ace from Leah Stidam.
The Braves built a 13-10 advance on three straight service points from Grace Jaynes, and went to lead 18-15 following a kill by Keeli Darlage.
After re-tying at 18-18, back-to-back kills from the Pioneers’ Madison Kruer put the visitors back on top.
The Pioneers won four consecutive points after tying at 21-21 to take the second game.
It was all Providence the rest of the way.
Providence kept the home squad scoreless through the first 10 points, forcing the Braves to take a time out.
Brownstown Central ended the streak at 12-1 with a kill by Grace Jaynes.
The Pioneers (28-5) controlled the match the rest of the way, winning 25-5 in the third game.
“We just lost steam,” Brownstown Central coach Jennifer Shade said. “We played with so much emotion and hype the first two games. When we didn’t go on to win that second game, we had a little bit of a letdown and lost steam.”
Darlage had 23 hits with seven kills and Pace finished with 14 and three.
As a team, the Braves finished with three aces, making 31 of 32 attempts.
The Braves knew they were up for a massive challenge coming into the match.
“We wanted to just come out and have a great end to our season,” Shade said. “We were going to leave it all on the floor. I thought our girls came out with the effort the first two games that showed that they truly were going to work as hard as they could. I’m very proud of that.”
With the loss, the Braves finished 14-20 on the season.
Shade said the senior group meant a lot to the program.
“They’ve put a lot of hard work in,” she said of the seniors. “These kids play club ball year round, year after year. Even if you win the state title, it’s still sad when the seniors are done. We hate to see them go but are happy for the years they’ve had here.”
Providence will face Charlestown in the semifinals on Thursday.