Volleyball

Sacred Heart tops Providence in battle of area's top teams

In a battle of two of the best teams in the country, the Sacred Heart Academy volleyball team held off pesky Providence, 25-23, 25-22, 25-20 Wednesday night at Providence High School.

“Coming over here is always tough,” said Sacred Heart coach Brett Versen. “They’re used to winning. We always love the challenge. We embrace this challenge. “We’re going to get everyone’s best shot every night, wherever we go. It was a good match and well-played on both sides.”

In a tight back-and-forth first set, Providence — ranked No. 1 in Indiana’s Class 3-A — committed three consecutive service errors and left the door open for the Valkyries.

Sacred Heart (19-3), ranked No. 1 in Kentucky, clinched the initial set on a service ace by Abigail Westenhofer, a St. Louis University commit.

In the second set, the Valkyries took charge early surged to a quick 11-2 edge. The Pioneers showed some grit and pulled to within 18-16 on a block by Marissa Hornung, a junior who has committed to play at Purdue.

“We know good teams aren’t just going to give up, especially at home,” Versen said. “They’re going to fight and keep working hard. We’ve just got to keep our foot down (on the gas).”

Providence, however, couldn’t catch Sacred Heart.

In the third set, the Pioneers again struggled at the start and fell behind 6-1.

“We just can’t get in those kinds of holes, especially against a team like Sacred Heart,” Providence coach Terri Purichia said.

Providence again mounted a rally, ignited by Hornung, who rang up seven kills in the set. She finished with 14 kills and 16 digs. Lexie Libs, the Providence setter who is an East Tennessee State recruit, had 33 assists.

The Pioneers led 18-16 in the third and final set after a kill by sophomore Hanna Mitchell. Sacred Heart though finished with a 6-1 run as the Valkyries went to Westenhofer and Hammons repeatedly.

Hammons, a Florida commit, finished with 17 kills, while Westenhofer had eight.

Despite the loss, Purichia left with thoughts of a fourth straight state title in their grasps.

“We did a lot of things really well tonight,” she said. “This team definitely has what it takes to be a championship level team. We just have to get out of the gate a little faster than we did tonight.

“This team is growing up in a hurry,” Purichia said.

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