Cowan volleyball coach Pancho Alvarez knew his team entered Saturday’s semistate at Caston at a disadvantage in height.
It hardly seemed to matter.
The Blackhawks ripped off a pair of sweeps, the second a 26-24, 25-13, 25-17 win against Frontier (30-2) to advance state title match. The Blackhwaks picked up a 25-18, 25-9, 25-17 win against Marquette Catholic (17-19) earlier in the day. They will play at Worthen Arena at Ball State where they’ll face Loogootee (34-4) at 11 a.m. next Saturday.
Cowan may have been the smaller team in both matches Saturday, but a focus on the basics helped nullify that.
“You looked across the net in both cases, in the morning and in the afternoon, we were outsized, just totally outsized in both cases,” Alvarez said. “I’m not telling anybody anything they haven’t heard before, it’s repeated time and time again to the point where it gets ridiculous. But passing and serving are just such and elementary part of the game, but because it’s so simple and it’s such a foundation, it’s proven.”
He said his team dictated where the ball had to be set to, and that allowed his smaller blockers to be that much more effective. Cowan blocked 15 shots in the two matches, including nine against Marquette Catholic.
Alvarez said the first set against Frontier was tight and tense, but in the second, Frontier just came apart. The Blackhawks fell behind early in the third but rallied to win, and Alvarez said the final set was a difficult spot for his team despite the lead.
“You kind of fear that just a little bit because now they’re down 2-0 and they’ve just been embarrassed, and you know they’re going to come out guns blazing,” Alvarez said. ” I don’t think we got the lead until 12-12, 13-12, right in there. … Our guys were really excited, and we just had to dial it back and understand it takes 25 to get that third set.”
In that match, the Blackhawks got a balanced effort with nine kills from Kristina Flowers and six from both Kyanne Stewart and Mallory Bruner. Madisen Mangus had 25 assists and two aces. Alvarez said all of his seniors stepped up and everyone played their role.
The opening match had some historic impact because Marquette Catholic had knocked Cowan out of the playoffs several times in past seasons. In the win, Bruner had nine kills and Stewart added eight for Cowan, which got four blocks from both Flowers and Stewart. Valorie Flick had 32 digs and Madison Mangus assisted 25 of the Blackhawks’ 29 kills.
“It’s awful nice to say we get to play at Worthen Arena,” Alvarez said. “I know these girls, that is a reward in itself.”