Brownstown’s five seniors remember it like it was yesterday.
Reagan Nuss was the only one on the floor, but the others cheered from the bench and stands as the Brownstown volleyball team captured the Class 3A state championship in 2019.
“Everybody had their roles,” Nuss recounted this week as the Braves are in the midst of another postseason run.
Nuss, Kelsey Wischmeier, Zori Otting and Erin and Emily Singleton were sophomores during that state run. Now, the five are seniors, knowing that this postseason, any match could be their last in a Brownstown uniform.
This group has played together for four years in high school, and even before that, which is why the chemistry has been so good on the floor.
“We’ve all been playing together since we were really little, so it really helps,” Emily Singleton said.
But this season has been unlike the prior three for this group of seniors. These five have enjoyed winning records in their freshman-junior seasons, but that wasn’t the case this fall.
The Braves played a tough schedule, competing against the likes of Providence, Floyd Central, Columbus East, New Albany, Center Grove and the list goes on.
There were moments throughout the season where the team doubted if it had what it took to even win sectionals, something this senior group had been used to doing.
The team had a record of 11-19 heading into sectionals. Albeit they were still 7-1 in the Mid-Southern Conference and finished second, but there was a reason head coach Jennifer Shade beefed up the schedule.
Erin Singleton remembers a specific locker room talk midway through the season about what was going on.
“We’re losing all these games, but why are we losing?” she said. “We’re there to learn from these tough teams.”
They started to learn. Last week as Brownstown entered sectionals at Owen Valley, the Braves ran the table.
Brownstown swept West Vigo, took down Edgewood in four sets and swept Northview to hoist the sectional trophy high at the end of the night.
“We played all those tough teams, and looking back now, I can see how much that helped us in our sectional,” Erin Singleton said.
“It was really exciting,” Otting said. “Seeing all of our fans support us and see all of Brownstown there.”
Last Saturday night marked the third-straight sectional title brought in by Brownstown’s seniors.
The Braves returned home from Owen Valley to a pep session in the high school and then got to ride on a firetruck around town.
“It’s been exciting,” Wischmeier said. “I feel like the teams there really want to beat us. It’s fun to come out on top and ride the firetrucks and stuff.”
It was a special moment that Brownstown didn’t think it would accomplish midway through this season, but now the Braves don’t want to be done.
They will be taking on the No. 1-ranked team in Class 3A in Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School — the same team that beat Brownstown in the regional final a season ago.
The team’s tough schedule has made them ready for this moment come Saturday.
“Our main thing is energy,” Nuss said. “We need to bring a lot of energy. We know they have a fast offense to run.”
That energy starts on the pre-match bus ride to the arena, where the team loves to blast songs by Pitbull.
“We blast the speakers all the way,” Otting said. “You’re not sleeping on that bus.”
If the team wins, the vibes are even better on the bus ride back. Not only does Pitbull still ring loud throughout the vehicle, but the team breaks out into a dance party, too.
It’s a fun team environment that has been created by the seniors.
Brownstown has a lot of younger players this season. The team goes out to eat a lot before games, they have team dinners, braid each other’s hair, just do a lot of things to try to create good team chemistry.
“They definitely stepped up,” Wischmeier said of the younger players on the roster.
The underclassmen call Erin Singleton “mama” because she always tries to give them life advice.
“They’re like my little babies,” Erin said.
The five seniors admitted that it doesn’t feel like their season could be over soon. It hasn’t hit them that matches in their Brownstown careers are limited, but they know once it ends, it will feel real.
The Singleton sisters play softball in the spring and Otting throws in track and field, but their days playing volleyball with one another are numbered.
“It’s been really fun and exciting,” Nuss said. “All the parents keep it fun for us kids and bring all of us treats, decorate the locker rooms, so all of that has been fun throughout the four years.”
After graduation, Nuss is going to Mount Vernon Nazarene University to play volleyball and will study health sciences and psychology.
Erin Singleton is currently undecided but she is planning to go play softball and study pre-law and legal studies.
Otting said she is still a little undecided but might attend IUPUC to go into business. Wischmeier plans to go to IUPUC to study nursing.
And as for Emily Singleton, she plans to go to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to play softball and study exercise science.
But that’s too much in the future for right now. The Braves still have a regional semifinal match this Saturday, and maybe more after that.
This has been a determined group of seniors for four years, and they feel like the team is playing its best volleyball right now.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win sectional,” Emily Singleton said. “Middle of the season we were like, can we even do that anymore? It was real nice to see us pull it together at the end of the season and get that win.”
Shade thinks this group has set the perfect example of what it means to be a senior athlete.
“One of the things you always look for in seniors is when the time they’re seniors, the team respects them,” Shade said. “I’ve watched these kids grow from freshmen to seniors. I love that now that they’re seniors, they’ve brought the younger kids along with them. They set the examples of what you should be like when you are a senior.”