No. 1 - Lady Thunderbirds earn trip to state volleyball finals

Friday, December 30, 2011
The Eastern Greene Lady Thunderbirds volleyball team earned the top spot in the Greene County Daily World's Year in Sports. Their trip to Muncie and the class 2A State Finals was voted the No. 1 sports story for 2011. Above, team members share the spotlight one last time sporting their medals and runner-up trophy at Ball State University's Worthen Arena in November. (By Shad Cox)

The dream of a state title came to an end Nov. 5 for the Eastern Greene Lady Thunderbirds volleyball team.

In a match that was anything but typical of the team that ran roughshod over the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference, captured their third straight Class 2A sectional, second consecutive regional and first semistate in any sport in school history, the No. 3 Lady Thunderbird spikers fell to No. 2 Wapahani 25-16, 28-26, 25-14 at Worthen Arena on the campus of Ball State University.

"Coming into today you don't know what you really wanted," Eastern Greene (35-5) coach Gina Ingram said. "We didn't expect to be here. We've overachieved all season long."

Part of that overachieving came through the way the Lady Thunderbirds earned their berth at Muncie.

They racked up 35 wins, which was a school record, didn't loose a game in conference play on their way to earning their third straight conference crown and outslugged an extremely tough Sullivan Lady Arrows in the sectional final.

There were numerous twists and turns and shifts in momentum as Eastern Greene dominated the first two sets, lost the next two, but scored 11 of the first 13 points in a deciding set No. 5 as the Lady Thunderbirds came away with a 25-13, 25-19, 19-25, 18-25, 15-8 win over the No. 10 Lady Arrows.

Next came a one-night regional on home turf and a chance to advance to the semistate.

Evansville Mater Dei provided the opposition and the Lady Thunderbirds didn't disappoint in what could only be called 78 minutes of some of the most gut wrenching volleyball they had went through during the season.

When it was all said and done they had earned their second straight trip to the semistate following a 25-12, 25-22, 25-18 win over Evansville Mater Dei.

"I thought we played very well considering I didn't know what to expect," Ingram said. "We've been here before. The last time we played a regional on this floor we were beaten by Tri-West."

The final stop for the squad came at Forest Park High School in Ferdinand.

After defeating Providence in the semifinals 26-24, 25-11, 22-25, 25-22, it was onto a showdown with Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter.

After five highly emotional and highly athletic sets, the Lady Thunderbirds earned an elusive class 2A state finals berth with a 25-14, 22-25, 25-20, 9-25, 15-12 win.

"I don't have the words to express what we just did," Ingram said. "I'm just dumbfounded."