Providence’s preseason dream is postseason reality.
The Panthers advanced to the N.C. 4A volleyball championship final with a 3-0 win against Myers Park on Tuesday at Providence, confirming their aspirations before the season’s first practice.
“The biggest thing is we saw this and we were hoping for this in our future, but we had a lot of improving to do,” said senior setter Becky Porter, who tallied a team-high 36 assists and 10 digs. “It took a lot of growth and coming together as a team throughout the season. That’s what got us here.”
Providence (25-2) displayed that growth when it counted. The Panthers never trailed in winning the first set, then had to withstand determined Myers Park rallies in the second and third to clinch the West Region title 25-21, 25-19, 25-20.
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I thought the girls came out with a lot of heart,” Providence coach Stephanie Harpenau said. “I knew Myers Park was not going to be an easy competitor. I was shocked we won in three, honestly. We knew how hard they were going to play and how good a team they were.”
Myers Park (21-3) turned aggressive after losing the first set, grabbing an 8-4 lead in the second on the play of setter Clair Maloney (24 assists) and outside hitter Katie Tylman (nine kills). There were four ties and three lead changes before the Panthers stormed to a 20-16 advantage Providence closed the set with an 11-6 run capped by Hannah Wheeler’s cross-court slam, one of her team-best 14 kills.
“We decided to start focusing,” Harpenau said. “They were serving pretty aggressive and I thought we were struggling with our passing. We talked about making sure on the next play, not the previous one, and stay with it.”
The third set followed a similar pattern with Myers Park with eight ties and three lead changes before Providence seized the initiative and momentum. Porter set the tone by setting passes for emphatic kills by Kendall Bender, Amy DeJuneas (11 each) and Wheeler while Madelyn Craig turned in 10 digs.
“Our ball control wasn’t good enough tonight, and they did a good job against our middles,” Myers Park Bettie Berry said. “Our middles are really good and (Providence) did a good job against them. They got some kills, but they did a much better job containing them than anyone has.”
After the final point was scored – a DeJuneas shot that Myers Park couldn’t return – Providence students and parents streamed onto the floor, engulfing the Panthers in hugs and kisses. The preseason expectations are one match from being met.
“It’s a dream,” Porter said. “All we’ve got to do now is keep playing hard and stay focused.”