Braves volleyball tackling new experiences


With last Saturday’s regional-clinching victory, the Brownstown Central Braves volleyball team claimed its 31st win of the year.

Not only is this the first time the Braves have made it this far in the state tournament since 2013, but it’s also the first time they’ve eclipsed the 30-win mark since 2012.

With so much success this year in finding the win column, it seems weird to say the Braves are learning how to win again.

But against Brebeuf Jesuit, Brownstown Central needed a refresher on how to compete in big games.

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The Braves, at least the ones from the north side of Indianapolis, had some more recent success than BC up until last Saturday and came out ready to upset the No. 3-ranked team in Class 3A.

After BC went up 3-1, Brebeuf rallied to tie up the first set.

And then coach Jennifer Shade called a timeout just six points into the match, noticing her team was a little flustered in the moment.

It was a simple message, one she has given to them before this season.

“She said for us to calm down because we were just a little bit nervous,” senior libero Riley Nuss said. “It was our first time in a regional, and obviously, we were super nervous and anxious that the game was starting. She just told us to calm down and play our game.”

It was apparent the message was well-received, as the Braves took control of the set and eventually the match to take the regional crown.

Still, the moment served as a reminder to Shade she needed to let her players know they could win the game.

Brownstown Central has not lost to a Class 3A opponent all season.

All five of their losses were to 4A programs: Two to Providence, one to Floyd Central, one to Roncalli and one to Bloomington South.

The only 3A team to take a set from BC was Mid-Southern Conference rival Silver Creek, who fell in a regional final to top-ranked Evansville Memorial last Saturday.

Again, with so much success against 3A teams, it’s surprising the Braves needed a refresher in Danville.

They have all of the pieces in place to make it to the top, and Shade knows that, but there’s still one thing she has had to drive home each practice since April.

A winning mentality.

Shade has coached plenty of successful teams at Brownstown Central and has been through all of the highs and lows in volleyball.

Prior to this season, this Braves’ group had experienced a lot of lows, never getting past the sectional round because of either Silver Creek or Providence.

“I know what it feels like to go into the locker room losing,” Shade said. “So we’ve focused a lot since April on the mental part of this game.”

Even in victory this season, Shade explains she has had to reprimand her players after coming out flat in third sets.

She has stated, after her girls win the first two sets of a match with ease, there’s always a lull they have to fight through before they replicate that strong effort in the third set.

They haven’t had those third-set issues so far in the state tournament, rattling off each game without any problems.

Still, keeping that winning mentality up is going to be crucial for the Braves going forward.

Especially against an Evansville Memorial team that, like Brownstown Central, hasn’t dropped a match to a 3A team.

Their lone loss came to Greenfield-Central during a regular-season tournament.

“You have to believe in yourself, and you have to believe that you can do it,” Shade said. “I knew the talent was there, I knew the physical part was there, I knew we had been spending enough time in the gym, but I had to convince these guys that they could do it. It has taken a lot of work.”

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