By Dennis Glade Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — MUNCIE — Barr-Reeve volleyball means so much to so many people in Montgomery, but none more than Amber DeCoursey. After 14 years leading one of the elite volleyball programs in Southwestern Indiana, DeCoursey and her team have reached the top of the mountain.
The Vikings (38-2) defeated Lafayette Central Catholic (28-11) 3-1 to win the school’s first Class A state championship Saturday afternoon at Worthen Arena at Ball State University. Barr-Reeve senior Jenna Knepp was the recipient of the Mental Attitude Award, which is given to the top senior player.
DeCoursey was a standout basketball and volleyball player at Barr-Reeve in the mid 1990s, before taking over the leadership of the volleyball program. In 14 season, the Vikings were the state runner-up in 1998, 2001 and 2008. This time it was different.
“This is just amazing,” DeCoursey said. “For these girls and this community for what this community has been through the past couple of months is just amazing.”
Brandon Wagler, who was the 2012 Barr-Reeve valedictorian was killed in an automobile accident Oct. 29 driving his younger brother to church. The tragedy rallied the community and the volleyball team wore green bows in their hair to pay homage to the Wagler family and Brandon’s younger sister, Megan, who plays on the junior varsity.
The first set was neck and neck for the until a Barr-Reeve timeout midway through the set. Central Catholic led 13-12 when DeCoursey took her first timeout. Out of the timeout, the Vikings seemed more focused and determined. The Vikings took a 16-15 lead, before the Knights tied it at 16, but Barr-Reeve would answer with four straight points to take a 20-16 lead. Central Catholic cut the lead to three momentarily, but Barr-Reeve steamrolled the final five points to take the set 25-17.
“I just think the emotions were getting a hold of the girls,” DeCoursey said. “We got this lead and the girls forgot we had to play to 25. A team like LCC, you can’t give them two or three at a time, because those points are just going to chip away. We held our composure and stayed at it.”
The momentum carried into the second set and the Vikings ran out to a 15-5 lead. The Knights looked outgunned and out of their league, but they responded with a 16-7 run to cut the lead to 22-21. The Vikings, however, would counter with three of the final four points to take the second set 25-22. The strong push at the end of the second set gave Central Catholic momentum to start the third set and Barr-Reeve had trouble matching the Knights’ intensity. Central Catholic took the third set 25-19 behind Cameron Onken’s 13 kills.
“We said we have to keep digging in — they’re not going to quit, they are going to keep coming,” DeCoursey said. “We just have to stay focused and engaged with what we’re doing.”
In the fourth set, once again Barr-Reeve jumped out to a big lead — this time it was 10-3 early on and later a Hania Sisco kill gave the Vikings an 18-11 lead. The Vikings could taste the state championship, but the Knights still had something to say about it. Like in the second set, Central Catholic put Barr-Reeve back on its heels with a 10-4 run to cut the lead to 22-21. Sisco’s tip past Onken’s outstretched arms gave the Vikings a more comfortable two-point lead. One point later, the Vikings had the Knights at match point and a hitting error by Emily Burks gave the Vikings the title.
Knepp led the Vikings with 36 assists to pace the Barr-Reeve offense. Senior Hania Sisco added 19 kills and Tiara Kenney had 10.
After receiving the championship trophy and the state medals, DeCoursey was still nearly speechless at the goal she had finally accomplished with the only community she knows and what it took to get there.
“I don’t even know what to think,” DeCoursey said with a smile.