Braves playing their best ahead of regional semifinal

Brownstown Central volleyball coach Jennifer Shade made a promise to her team that if they won the sectional, she would take them to the pumpkin patch.

It was an activity the Braves had been wanting to do, but they had to take care of business first. Brownstown won its three matches last week at Owen Valley to win the sectional title, defeating West Vigo, Edgewood and Northview in that order.

This past Monday, instead of going to the pumpkin patch, Shade brought the pumpkin patch to her team. The Braves went out to the park right outside the high school and got to decorate pumpkins and have pizza and snacks.

“Sometimes, you need to come in and go to practice, and other times, you need to reward the kids for what they did,” Shade said. “It’s just good mentally to get together and take a break.”

The team had a good time Monday before getting back into the gym the rest of this week, practicing hard and studying film on their opponent in the regional semifinal this Saturday — No. 1-ranked Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.

Brebeuf, which also has the team mascot Braves, is 28-3 this season and easily swept its way out of the sectional to reach this point. The two teams will meet around noon this Saturday at Danville High School, following the conclusion of Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter versus Tri-West Hendricks.

“They are very experienced, and they are very quick,” Shade said. “We’ll have to speed up our game knowing that a fast offense is coming at us.”

Brebeuf knocked Brownstown out of the postseason last season in the regional championship match. It’s a lot of the same roster, and this Brownstown team is led by its five seniors but has a mix of young players who have important roles.

Brownstown is 14-19 this season and played a tough schedule to prepare for matches like these. They aren’t ashamed to admit there was some doubt if they could reach this point, but the team started to click toward the end of the season.

“We went through a downtime,” Shade said. “Toward the end of the season, we started to play some teams and get some wins, and you started seeing confidence in those girls. They were starting to hit a little bit harder.”

Now, the pressure is off of this Brownstown team. They had won sectional in back-to-back seasons (2019, 2020) and had some pressure to win the third consecutive. Since the team three-peated last week, now the pressure is off of them and on top-ranked Brebeuf.

“I think we’re really determined knowing that they’re the No. 1 team in 3A right now,” senior setter Reagan Nuss said. “We can go in and play our game and not feel the pressure of being ranked.”

This group of seniors has been a part of a state title run in 2019 when Brownstown won it all, so they know what it takes to be at this stage of the postseason.

“You just have to get everyone hyped up before the game, so we bring our best,” senior Kelsey Wischmeier said.

“We just have to fire up and stay on top of our game,” senior Zori Otting added.

Brebeuf is a fast team, and they will be hard to get the ball by, but Brownstown has been studying film all week, trying to identify the weaknesses of their opponent.

“Finding the holes on the court,” senior Emily Singleton said. “Learning where their defense isn’t and putting the ball away.”

Brownstown has gradually improved throughout the season, and there’s no doubt in the coaches’ or players’ minds that the team is playing its best volleyball right now.

Sure, Brownstown may be outmatched on paper, but a team with nothing to lose playing its best volleyball of the season is always dangerous.

“We are peaking,” Shade said. “We are playing the best volleyball of the season right now, which is the way it should be.”