Celebrating a state championship
"Unbelievable!! They were No. 1 in the state and I can't believe we pulled together and beat them in three games," said spirited senior middle hitter Madison Schultz in the celebration after Bellmont's Squaws squelched the bid by Indianapolis Brebeuf Jesuit to claim a second straight 3A State Volleyball Championship Saturday night at Ball State's Worthen Arena.
Though there were 33 tie scores and 15 lead changes in the three games, Craig Krull's Squaws forced their will on Brebeuf, getting the points when they needed and frustrating the Braves with iron-fisted defense. The Squaws jumped out in the first game and won 25-23. BHS dominated in game two for the 25-14 win, and then came back from a 22-23 deficit to close out that final game 27-25.
It was the second state volleyball crown in four years for Bellmont and the Squaws utilized the same door-slamming formula, winning 18 of 19 games in the postseason this year. The 2007 squad played one more sectional round and went 21-1. Bellmont's single game loss came last week in the opening game to Yorktown at the Plymouth Semistate.
"It is what it is. Statistics don't lie. We are that good," stated Krull. "That's the way we can play all the time, and it's great that the girls did it on this big of a stage."
It may have been a big stage, but it was definitely a Bellmont home match Saturday night as Bellmont fans dominated one side of the arena and had to number in the 2000 range.
"We sold 500 tickets about as quickly as we could. We could've sold 500 more," said Bellmont Athletics Director Dale Manis of the state tickets sold out of the BHS office. The IHSAA was generous enough to let BHS keep 50 cents a ticket.
With a huge and boisterous student section rocking for the entire match, plus a wall of adult fans, the Squaws had to feel right at home. The BHS fans outnumbered the Brebeuf fans by at least two to one.
But the real shock for Brebeuf was the ball coming back time after time when one of its power hitters connected. It was the best defense Bellmont played all year.
"We knew it was our last game and knew we'd better get it going and pull together," said junior setter Steph Shoup, who fought through a cold to do her job, which included 41 assists and 5 digs.
"Did we want to hang tough in that last game and win it in three? My gosh, yes."
That last series of points in game three proved that. After a miscue put Bellmont down a point, senior leader Alex Fuelling snuffed a Brebeuf hit for a block kill to knot the match. BHS fell behind again, then senior Emily Pierce, who had the match of her career, drilled in a kill from the left side to tie it. Madison Schultz (912 kills, three blocks) then stroked in a kill, but Pierce's championship point serve hit the net.
Madison Schultz came right back with a tip-kill and a Brebeuf hit went out of bounds to end the match. "I didn't lose any confidence at all. I knew we would pull through," Schultz said.
"We've been down before in the tourney and we knew we could come back. We knew what we had to do and did it," explained Bellmont slugger Alex Fuelling, who will officially sign a letter of intent Wednesday to rap kills next year for Morehead State in Kentucky.
Fuelling and libero Colclasure both were regulars on the 2007 team. "This year was better because I'm a leader on the team, and we won state, and it's awesome," noted Fuelling..
Pierce's kill late was her eighth and she had 23 attacks, the third most on the team. "I was thinking, this is state and there's no reason to hold back. Leave everything out there," said Pierce, who said she was "feeling it" during that early groove.
"We started out good, we finished good and we won it. Any mistakes we made just don't matter any more."
Pierce's clutch performance was critical, and it backed Krull's theory that the role players would decide the state title. Pierce had five kills in the first game to give her team a quick boost.
Colclasure led the defense with 19 digs, and made a spectacular play with the score tied at 20 in the final game. She dove to her left, out of bounds, and got enough of the ball to send it across the court, barely over the net ... and it dropped in bounds.
"I just tried to get it up," said Colclasure, who will play volleyball for some college next year. "We knew we were playing a good team, so we really had to pull together. We didn't want them to take it from us (in that last game)."
Junior Payton Schultz, who was a central figure in the semistate win, found plenty of resistance from a prepared Brebeuf, but came through with 7 kills. Junior Allison Gutierrez had five digs and frosh Bailee Hankenson took her turn, adding a kill, an assist and two blocks.
"I can't say enough about these girls. It was such a great team effort. Everybody contributed. I'm so proud of them," said Krull.
The celebration continued at the BHS gym Saturday night. "I've heard rumors that I might move on or move up as coach somewhere else. It's not going to happen. I'm not going anywhere," declared Krull.
"I've also heard that because we lost all of those seniors we won't be very good next year. We lose Maddy and Alex in the middle, but we've got a lot of girls behind them and we have several girls back from this team. We're going to be very good next year, it's just a matter of figuring things out. I'm not conceding anything."
That's Bellmont volleyball.