MUNCIE — Penn refused to panic.
As a result, the Kingsmen repeated as IHSAA Class 4A state volleyball champions.
No.2 Penn saw its set victory streak end at 57 but seized back the momentum to top No.1 Avon 25-16, 17-25, 25-13, 25-18 Saturday at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena for second state volleyball crown and 16th IHSAA team sports title in school history.
The Kingsmen, led by mental attitude award winner Kaitlyn Hickey’s 18 kills, gave the Orioles their only loss of 2011.
After powering past Avon in the first set with the last four points coming on a Lexi Ball ace, shared blocked by Becca Lira and Jordan Brough, Emily Tavares kill and Avon attack error, Penn had passing difficulties in the second set . The powerful Orioles led wire-to-wire in that set.
Kingsmen coach Sarah Hendricks got her team re-focused heading into the third set.
“I said, ‘it’s time to start over,’” said Hendricks. “We both had a win. We both had a good game. We both had a bad game. We needed to get back into our rhythm, relax and just play volleyball. In the second game, we weren’t passing the ball. We were kind of out of sync. Our nerves were getting the best of us a little bit.
“We always say ‘take care of business.’ We weren’t taking care of business at that point.
Hendricks told her players that as soon as they started to improve in the passing game, the momentum will change in Penn’s favor and that’s exactly what happened.
“We relaxed and we did what we do,” said Hendricks. “Everybody picked the right moment to step up. That’s the best part about our team. If one player is down, we’ve got five other girls to pick them up.”
“That’s what wins state championships right there.”
Penn closed out the third set with three kills by birthday girl Jasmine Obren sandwiched around a kill by Emily Tavares.
“I finally stepped up,” said Obren, who turned 17 Saturday and also had kills for points 21 and 22 in the fourth set. “I wasn’t nervous anymore.”
Obren said the Kingsmen took Hendricks’ advice to heart and played well in closing out the match and earning another title.
“(Coach Hendricks) said , ‘you can do better than this. You’re just a little nervous,” said Obren. ‘”Take a deep breath.’ We won the next set then our intensity took us from there and we won.”
Annie Drews, the 6-foot-5 Purdue-bound left-handed attacker, treated Penn players and spectators to her rendition of “I’m A Little Teapot” — a camp counselor song — between hugs with the state championship trophy.
A record crowd of 8,102 saw Saturday’s four championship matches. It was an atmosphere that can be intimidating.
“We don’t have Tuesday night games like this,” said Drews. “It’s definitely something you have to adjust to, but we have to just focus on the court, and more importantly, what we’re doing on our side of the court.”
Since Penn did win it all last season, Drews said she could identify with Avon having a bullseye all season with its unbeaten record and No.1 ranking.
“Everyone’s out to get you,” said Drews. “I’m sure they felt that way all season.”
Hickey, who carries a 3.91 grade-point average and is bound for a playing career at IUPUI, said the mental attitude award is a reward for her goals of excelling in school, on the court and community service.
“It means that everything is paying off that I’ve been trying to do,” said Hickey, who had her teams final three kills in the fourth set.
The community can salute the state champions at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Penn High School’s Large Group Instruction Room A. Enter through Door A.
4A State Championship
(At Worthen Arena, Muncie)
PENN def. AVON 25-16, 17-25, 25-13, 25-18
Top Penn players: Aces — Kaitlyn Hickey 3, Lexi Ball 2. Assists — Emily Tavares 43, Natalie Meert 4. Kills — Hickey 18, Annie Drews 11, Becca Lira 11, Jasmine Obren 9. Blocks — Lira 6 (2 solos), Obren 4 (1 solo). Digs — Meert 13, Lira 9, Ball 8, Hickey 8.
Top Avon players: Aces — Rebekah Strange 3. Assists — Madison Reeves 21, Rachel Griffin 6. Kills — Emily Graves 9, Katie Higginbotham 9, Beth Prince 9, Jill Steinmetz 8. Blocks — Steinmetz 3. Digs — Alli Bexell 14, Brooke Peters 11.
Records: Penn 38-1, Avon 39-1.
Class 1A final: Wes-Del def. Trinity Lutheran 25-18, 25-17, 25-22.
Class 2A final: Wapahani def. Eastern (Greene) 25-16, 28-26, 25-14.
Class 3A final: Yorktown def. Indianapolis Chatard 25-13, 25-19, 25-15.