MUNCIE — Jenna Knepp could barely breathe with all the excitement around.
Knepp helped Barr-Reeve win its first volleyball state championship and was given the Mental Attitude Award following the 3-1 victory over Lafayette Central Catholic Saturday afternoon in Worthen Arena at Ball State University. Knepp fell to her knees after Barr-Reeve clinched the title and tears flowed for the entire team. Then came the news that she was getting an extra accolade in addition to being part of the first state championship team in Barr-Reeve history.
As she accepted the Mental Attitude Award (Barr-Reeve also gets a $1,000 scholarship), you could hear chants of “Jenna Knepp” beaming from the student section. There have been plenty of great volleyball players to pass through the halls in Montgomery — Hilliary Fox, Kristi Kavanaugh and Knepp’s coach, Amber DeCoursey to name a few, but none ever had a moment as perfect as this one. Few athletes ever get a singular moment of unanimous admiration from their peers and the reaction on her face was one of pure amazement.
True to form, Knepp deflected praise off herself and onto her teammates, coaches and community. The community is what the Vikings and Knepp play for and that was never more evident than over the past month. The shocking death of 2012 Barr-Reeve valedictorian Brandon Wagler in an automobile accident on the morning of Sept. 29 rocked Montgomery. The green bows worn in each girls hair was a tribute to the Wagler family was a testament to closeness of the community.
“This means a lot — I couldn’t have ever done it without my team — they pushed me and I just tried to do my best and our seniors tried to do our best. I’m very thankful for them.”
On and off the court, the Vikings follow Knepp’s lead. In what is the perfection of team sports, Knepp sets up her teammates to score on seemingly every play. She led Barr-Reeve with 36 assists Saturday afternoon, which led to 19 kills from fellow senior Hania Sisco, 10 from junior Tiara Kenney and seven from senior Tracy Graber.
Knepp seems to always be in the right spot at the right time and even when there are unforced errors around her, she is consummate team player, who always tries to pump up her teammates. Her demeanor mirrors DeCoursey’s — she’s the coach on the floor.
“She’s just amazing,” DeCoursey said. “She’s been our setter for four years and for her to get that award is just an honor to her and her family.”
Knepp was just as freshman starter three years ago when the Vikings were one point away from going to the state championship, but fell short to Indianapolis Lutheran. Knepp, Sisco, Graber and Allison Hoover had waited three years to avenge that loss. She was a sophomore on the Vikings’ basketball team that was undefeated before getting upset in the regional against Borden. She and her teammates were always the bridesmaids, never the bride.
“To know that we were the first team ever in school history to do it — that’s just an amazing feeling in itself right there,” Knepp said. “A lot of people didn’t think we could do it. I mean we weren’t even supposed to make it out of sectional. To actually come to state and not only be here, but win, it’s just amazing.”