Sahara Bee and her Morgan Township teammates went through quite the journey to secure the schools’ first IHSAA regional volleyball title on Saturday.
The Cherokees swept Triton in the morning, setting up a battle with Class A powerhouse Pioneer in the regional title match. Morgan Twp. jumped out to a 2-0 lead and were just two points away from the regional championship when the Panthers rallied over the next two games to force a winner-take-all fifth set.
Everything worked out in the end as the Cherokees dominated Pioneer with a 15-3 win to advance to a Class A semistate championship game against Cowan on Saturday at Frankfort.
“There was a little bit of panic when they came back to tie it,” Bee said. “We got into the fifth game and we didn’t have anything to lose. Once we got up five points, I started to feel pretty good.”
A little bit of panic is nothing new for Bee, and neither is embarking on a journey with an uncertain end. Bee was born in Dubai, the daughter of an electrical engineer who traveled from city to city and country to country. By the time Bee was finishing eighth grade, the senior setter had lived in Dubai, Florida, Alabama, Puerto Rico and Kansas. Then came the decision that the family was moving to Northwest Indiana.
“I didn’t know anyone here at all,” Bee said. “My mom wanted us to go to a smaller school, so we ended up at Morgan Twp. That’s when I decided to try volleyball.”
Bee walked into the gym for tryouts with little knowledge about the game except that she liked to hit the ball. The Cherokees were led by future Ball State standout and Porter County Conference Player of the Year Kia Holder. After taking one look at Bee, Holder walked up to Morgan Twp. coach Amy Bolen.
“Kia comes up to me and asks ‘Why is Sahara on junior varsity?’” Bolen said. “We knew within two seconds of looking at her that she was a varsity player.”
Bee, the nomad who had spent much of her life moving around the world, suddenly found her niche. She finally belonged. If this story sounds too good to be true, it gets even better. Holder graduated and Bee began learning all the nuances of the game. Fast forward to earlier this season and it was Bee that was named the PCC Player of the Year, edging out junior teammate and Purdue commit Emily Rastovski.
“It meant so much to be to get that honor,” Bee said. “I always feel like I’ve been the runner up. This was special.”
Part of the reason Bee edged out Rastovski was her versatility on the court. Originally an outside hitter, Bee transitioned to setter after the Cherokees lost their starting setter to a freak knee injury suffered in a softball game midway through the season. Bee was back learning all the nuances of a new position, much like she did when she began playing volleyball as a freshman.
“Sahara has the best hands in the gym,” Bolen said. “She took to the position and learned more and more with every game. At one point this year she apologized to the other setters on the team, telling them that she had no idea how hard the position was.”
Bee is falling in love with her new position and with good reason. She hopes to continue playing volleyball in college and everything she’s hearing is that collegiate coaches want her running the offense.
“Whenever I’ve gone to camps, they all tell me how good my hands are,” Bee said. “I probably should’ve pursued (being a setter) earlier on. I’m pretty behind right now, but I know that playing in semi-state is going to be a good experience. I think I’m good at calming my nerves in tough situations and that’s what we’ll need to do in order to win.”