MUNCIE | The Bishop Noll girls volleyball team had no intention of taking the pressure of the region with it when the season started.
There were certainly some surprises, and as teams often tell themselves at the start of the season, the Warriors wanted to reach a state final.
But could they, really? No Lake or Porter county team had done so, ever.
Sure, there were region teams that had appeared in the state finals tournament, when the finals tournament was a final four with a semifinal before the title game. But to reach the championship, to play for a blue or red medal, that hadn't been done, ever.
In August, this team wasn't even sure it would be the first.
"Definitely we surprised ourselves," senior Carissa Jones said after Saturday's three-game loss to Providence in the Class 2A championship match. "It started with beating Andrean, because none of us were going in there like we were 'going' to win. We just thought, 'OK, let's play and see what happens,' and then we won. Now we can do more than just beat Andrean."
But lo and behold, in the waning days of the season, the Warriors were still there, hanging on and not letting up.
Like other teams with success, Bishop Noll wasn't afraid to put tough games and tournaments on its schedule. The Warriors played Valparaiso, which won a Class 4A sectional in 2012, and they played in the Penn Tournament to end the season.
Now that they've tasted what a state final is like, the 2014 Warriors can't wait to return.
Not to hold the pressure of the rest of the region on their shoulders, the players had some recommendations for the rest of the area on what their perfect recipe was to reach the state final:
"It takes just playing people in a higher (class)," senior Asya Hobbs said. "We went to Penn and learned that not everyone has the same offense and intensity as a 2A school, and that's what Providence was today."
"It takes a lot of heart. Don't ever underestimate yourselves," junior Carly Cappello said. "A lot of people took us for granted, they overlooked us and never thought we were a threat. Just because we're from the region, they overlooked us. Like our athletic director says, we're 'region tough.'"
"It takes dedication," Jones said. "I've been dedicated to the sport of volleyball since the fifth grade with little CYO, and that's carried over into my love of the game in high school. We've been so dedicated and even determination, to prove people wrong, and we've had that all season, and to have that I think gave us a little edge."
Not that Class 2A and 4A are exactly the same. Not that any of these teams can repeat the feat with an injury bug plaguing a team.
But there's hope. Now that one has perforated the invisible bubble surrounding region volleyball, there's even more hope that the hole is just big enough to drive even more local teams through.
"Honestly, it's tough, because we are predominantly a basketball region," coach Dave Rodriguez said. "It's going to take dedication and hard work, and those sound like benchmark things that you say, but it's true. I've got coaches who came from other programs who said that when they came here, things that we did with (the players) in conditioning and sand training, they couldn't believe we did those things.
"That's what it's going to take. People have to take improvement seriously. There has to be a dedication, and when you have multiple sport athletes, it's tough, but you have to have hard work, dedication and desire."