By Dennis Glade
LOOGOOTEE — For the first time since 2008, the Barr-Reeve volleyball team is back in the Class A state championship.
The Vikings (37-2) defeated Indianapolis Lutheran (31-8) 3-1 (25-27, 25-20, 25-23, 25-21) Saturday night at Jack Butcher Arena.
For the second straight Saturday, chants of "Go, Barr-Reeve" rang out at Jack Butcher Arena as the Vikings' student section rushed the court to celebrate Barr-Reeve's first trip to the state championship in Muncie since 2008.
The combination of Indianapolis Lutheran coming out firing and Barr-Reeve looking a little sluggish put the Vikings behind the 8-ball for most of the first set. The Saints led for nearly the entire set and when they went up 24-20, everything changed for the Vikings. Barr-Reeve scored four straight points to tie it at 24, but Lutheran was able to hang on to win the first stanza 27-25.
"In set one we came out a little flat," said Barr-Reeve coach Amber DeCoursey. "We talked about they're great tippers — you can't read them. We knew they were going to expose us on the right side and they did. They earned some points that way and we waited a little bit too long to get going. We had a great run at the end of set one, got some momentum built up and fell short."
In the second set, the Vikings jumped out to a quick 9-5 lead, but four straight points from Lutheran tied the score at nine. The score was tied at 10 and 11, before Barr-Reeve ran off seven straight points to take an 18-11 lead. Lutheran made a comeback, but couldn't get closer than three points as the Vikings took the set 25-20 knot the score at one set apiece.
In the third set, both teams were on their game from the outset. No lead was bigger than four points for the entire set and there were six lead changes. Lutheran cut the lead to 24-23 on a tip kill from senior Kylie Baynes, but junior Tiara Kenney's kill shot gave Barr-Reeve the 25-23 victory.
For much of the fourth set it looked as if Barr-Reeve was going to win in blowout fashion. The Vikings scored 10 straight points to take a 14-4 lead and that lead would grow to 20-9. Lutheran, however, didn't quit. The Saints cut the lead to 23-20, but Barr-Reeve finished them off with the final two points of the night to win the semi-state championship.
"I felt we came out in set two and three really focused," DeCoursey said. "In set four we had them 20-9, but we couldn't get it closed, but I give a lot of credit to Lutheran, they're a heck of team. They kept us on our heels, they kept coming at us — excellent ball club."
Senior Jenna Knepp led the Vikings with 53 assists, which set up Hania Sisco with 24 kills and Tiara Kenney with 23 kills.
"Jenna is a great leader," DeCoursey said. "All of our seniors take charge on the floor.
The Vikings are back in the state championship for the first time since 2008 and will be looking for their first state championship in the program's history. They will face Lafayette Central Catholic (29-9) Saturday morning at 11 a.m. in Worthen Arena in Muncie.
"We're going go enjoy this tonight," DeCoursey said. "We'll get busy on Monday and do what we have to do."