Party like it’s 2010: Pats end sectional droughtOctober 16, 2017
By COLIN LIKAS
MOUNT VERNON — In late May 2018, Corrie Burroughs will graduate from Heritage Hills High School. From then on, she’ll be able to return to Lincoln City to recall her time as a Patriot.
For the senior volleyball libero, that will now include getting to look at a banner that lists the 2017 Heritage Hills team as the Pocket Athletic Conference and Class 3A Mount Vernon Sectional champion.
“It’s going to feel absolutely amazing to get up there and see, ‘Hey, that was my team. That was my team that won that year,’” Burroughs said.
The Patriots achieved the latter feat Saturday when they knocked off Gibson Southern 25-23, 25-22, 25-14. That came hours after a stunning 25-18, 25-15, 17-25, 22-25, 15-7 triumph against 3A No. 8 Evansville Memorial in the semifinals.
It was quite the day for the Patriots, who grabbed their first sectional crown since 2010 with their pair of victories.
“It feels good to say that,” first-year varsity coach Kayla White said. “For seven years, we’ve been lacking the championship we wanted, and it feels good to say we’ve got it. They earned it, they worked hard and we’re coming home with it.”
The road to a postseason championship wasn’t without obstructions for the Patriots (30-4), especially when it came to a matchup with the state-rated Tigers (22-7).
But massive attack performances from seniors Abby Wahl (25 kills) and Melissa Bell (22 kills), in addition to senior Abby Wetzel’s 45 assists and five different players recording 10 or more digs, made the difference.
White said having eight upperclassmen on the roster also had an impact on the upset result.
“They had that hunger to beat them,” White said, noting that Memorial knocked Heritage Hills out of the last two sectional tournaments and won the teams’ regular-season matchup this year. “They didn’t want to leave, again, with another Memorial loss. They were determined they were going to change their history.”
The Patriots then used an experience advantage to overcome the Titans (16-9) in the title bout. Gibson Southern boasted just one senior among its 14-player roster.
“Definitely not,” Burroughs said when asked if the Titans looked like a single-senior group. “They competed very well. I don’t know how much experience they had overall with people starting varsity when they were younger, but they definitely competed like a team that has plenty of seasons, plenty of experience.”
That statement was supported in the first two sets. Gibson Southern fought off four consecutive match points in the opening stanza, while it was within two points by second set’s end after trailing by as many as nine.
“When we played them at their place, they were scrappy, they worked hard, they fought, and they have a lot of oomph to them,” White said, referencing a three-set Patriot win over the Titans on Sept. 11. “So we knew coming in (we) were going to face something like that, that they weren’t going to roll over just because we beat Memorial.”
In the sweep of Gibson Southern, Wahl (16 kills), Bell (10 kills) and Wetzel (29 assists) again paced the Heritage Hills offense. But just as big a contributor for the Patriots was Burroughs, who consistently could be seen trying to pick up teammates amid a stiff challenge from the Titans.
White said Burroughs doesn’t recognize her emotional impact on matches, something the coach described as “kind of awesome.” Among Burroughs’ tactics, according to White: cracking jokes, making funny faces or simply talking when others aren’t.
“I try to be a role model emotionally, and I try to get to people when they’re down,” Burroughs said. “I want to be one of the first ones there to tell them, ‘It’s OK, just get the next one.’”
The next one for Heritage Hills comes this Saturday against Sullivan (30-5) in the 3A Corydon Central Regional semifinals. Burroughs said she’s looking forward to the postseason’s next round, a first for all the Patriots who will be involved.
“I’m so excited, just to see what it’s like and to see that intensity and energy,” she said. “I’m so, so ready to have that competition and just reach that high level and see as far as we can go.”
The first step in continuing the Patriots’ season comes against a Golden Arrows group that will be coming off its first sectional plaque since 2009. So at what level is White setting expectations for her squad?
“We’re going to work hard this week to make sure it’s high,” she said. “I believe my girls, they’ve figured out how to prepare themselves, how to fix their mindset. I believe they really want this.”
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