Advancing to semistate is starting to become a habit for Union County.
It’s a habit the Patriots hope to keep.
Two of the past three years Union County has found itself at Forest Park High School as one of the last eight teams standing in Class 2A.
Taking it one step further is next on the Patriots’ agenda.
Evansville Mater Dei swept Union County on Saturday, defeating the Patriots 25-18, 29-27, 25-15 to move on to the semistate final opposite top-ranked Providence.
Providence won 3-0 in the final and will face Hammond Bishop Noll next Saturday in the state final in Muncie.
“A great season. The girls have a lot to be proud of,” said UC coach Chris Wiederhold. “We’ll work hard in the offseason and come back here next year.”
Game 2 was pivotal.
The Patriots led much of the way, holding a 15-9 advantage at one point with Bella Pavey at the service line.
Slowly but surely, the Wildcats clawed their way back into it.
UC led 22-18 before Mater Dei rattled off four straight points to tie 22-22. The two squads then battled back and forth before the Wildcats finally put the game away 29-27.
“Those are my favorite kind of games,” said UC junior Carlea Handley, who finished with a team-high 18 kills. “I love the games that go 29, 30 points.”
Mater Dei coach Ashley King said Game 2 was a momentum swing in her team’s favor.
“A missed serve or a missed hit can change the momentum completely. If we had lost that second set, it could have changed the momentum all around,” she said.
“They (the Patriots) were tough. … We are at semistate, so every team that we play against is going to be pumped up, excited and ready to win.”
Union County also advanced to semistate in 2011, before falling 3-0 to Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter.
Pavey, Handley and Taylor Cruse were on that 2011 team that played at Forest Park.
“(The experience) was kind of déjà vu, seeing the same place, everything,” Handley said.
Pavey finished with 38 assists and seven digs, while Allison Kassens contributed 15 kills and 15 digs, Bailey Jenkins eight digs, Lauren Lester seven digs, Ella Dils three kills and two blocks, Danielle Hill four kills and Cruse two aces.
Cruse is the lone senior on this year’s team.
“We’re going to miss her,” Wiederhold said. “She’s going to be very missed.”
Union County finished 26-11. The Patriots completed a 7-0 Tri-Eastern Conference season where they didn’t drop a single game to a conference foe.
That trend continued in the sectional. Union County halted three straight TEC teams 3-0 on the way to the championship, then swept second-ranked Heritage Christian this past Tuesday to win a regional title.
“This experience is something to build upon and be ready for next year,” Wiederhold said.
Added Handley: “We were all really excited to come here. It’s different for me being here my second time. But I feel like the next time we come here, which will hopefully be next year, we’ll all be ready since we’ve all been here.”