AGAINST THE WALL: Southwestern’s senior captain Lexi Means (above, 6) encourages teammates (from left) Sarah Anderson, Skyla Judkins and Morgan Mahoney after scoring a point during the third set of Tuesday’s regional. Means can only regroup (below) as Providence’s Taylor Wilson (6), Patricia Mattingly (20), Kylie Flanagan (3), Maddie Bivens (5) and Haley Libs (24) celebrate a point of their own. The second-ranked Pioneers won the match in straight sets to claim their ninth regional crown and end the Rebels season. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
AGAINST THE WALL: Southwestern’s senior captain Lexi Means (above, 6) encourages teammates (from left) Sarah Anderson, Skyla Judkins and Morgan Mahoney after scoring a point during the third set of Tuesday’s regional. Means can only regroup (below) as Providence’s Taylor Wilson (6), Patricia Mattingly (20), Kylie Flanagan (3), Maddie Bivens (5) and Haley Libs (24) celebrate a point of their own. The second-ranked Pioneers won the match in straight sets to claim their ninth regional crown and end the Rebels season. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
CLARKSVILLE - Southwestern's volleyball season came to an end at the hands of second-ranked Providence in straight sets but not before the Lady Rebels rallied themselves to go out in style.

Providence won its ninth regional title 25-8, 25-12, 25-20 over Southwestern at home on Tuesday. While the Pioneers had their way in the opening two games, that wasn't the case in game three.

Southwestern jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the final set and led most of the way, including at 18-17. But the Pioneers took control and pulled away to end the Rebels' first trip to the regional round with a loss.

"We had a great season. We won our first sectional, we went 26-11. Nobody can say this wasn't a successful season," Southwestern coach Chris Johnson said. "And I think once the sting wears off the girls will realize that. They have nothing to be ashamed about."

Southwestern (26-11) showcased a severe case of nerves in the opening set and it proved fatal against a Providence team making its 27th trip to the regionals all-time.

The Pioneers (33-4) scored the first six points of the opening game and led 12-2 before Johnson was forced to call a timeout to settle his players. The Rebels answered with four-straight points to pull within 12-6 but Providence regrouped to win the game in a rout.

"We were nervous and it showed," Johnson said. "I told them in that first set to not worry and hopefully that they were getting it out of their system and we're going to play much better. And I think for the most part they did that."

Providence rode its cadre of hitters to another lopsided win in the second set. But unlike the opener, Southwestern hung tough early and trailed only 16-10 before the Pioneers pulled away.

"I really think we were ready in the second set. I'm just not sure what happened," Johnson said. "I'll be honest, at that point I was just worried all three games were going to be like that."

Johnson's worries were unrealized because the Rebels came out on fire in the third set with their season on the line.

Southwestern scored the first three points of the set, getting two points on hits by Lexi Means and Morgan Mahoney to build a 6-2 lead that prompted a Providence timeout.

The Rebels continued to apply the pressure and took advantage of Providence mistakes to build their biggest lead of the match at 12-7.

The Pioneers chipped away and eventually took their first lead on a Haley Libs hit at 14-13 but Southwestern didn't buckle. Olivia Cline tied the game with a kill and Means served two straight aces to put the Rebels back on top 16-14.

Southwestern still maintained a two-point lead at 17-15 when Providence made its move. A service error gave the ball back to the Pioneers and Libs hammered a spike to tie the game 17-17.

Cline gave Southwestern its last lead with a spike from the middle to make it 18-17 but Libs answered with a spike of her own to tie the game 18-18 and Patricia Mattingly then served two-straight aces to make it 20-18.

Johnson called a timeout at that point but Daniel Maile picked up a kill out of the timeout and a Southwestern error pushed the Pioneers ahead 22-18.

Southwestern scored two-straight points on a Providence service error and a Savannah Hubbard service ace, but Libs stopped the small run with a spike and Maile ended the match with back-to-back kills to secure the win.

Taylor Wilson had 12 kills and Libs and Maile had 10 each for the Pioneers, who spread the hits all around the court.

"Providence did what I expected them to do," said Johnson, whose team had lost to Providence a month ago. "Our plan was to take our setter, who is only 5-1, and pull her away from the net and try to funnel their hitters to the outside. For the most part we did that and we executed it, we just couldn't dig up the balls."

Three days after raining 55 kills down on South Ripley in the sectional championship win, the Rebels managed only 14 against Providence. Means and Karli Long each collected 20 kills from the outside position against Ripley but were held to just five and two, respectively, against the Pioneers.

Mahoney had four kills and Cline three from the middle.

"We really struggled with our offense, that was the biggest thing," Johnson said. "We just couldn't find any rhythm."

Wilson had five service aces and 12 points for Providence, Audrey Shannon had 11 points, Kylie Flanagan had 10 points and Mattingly had six points and three aces.

Means had three aces and four service points for Southwestern which got only a total of 16 points from its servers. Mahoney had four points and Katie Conover three points.

Providence advances to the semistate at Forest Park where it will take on Eastern Hancock (28-9) in the semifinals. Hancock dispatched Heritage Christian 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-18) in their regional matchup on Tuesday.

In the other semifinal, No. 4 Eastern (Greene) (35-2) will take on 10th-ranked Indianapolis Ritter (26-9). Eastern beat Evansville Mater Dei 3-1 (27-29, 25-19, 25-21, 25-21) while Ritter knocked off Speedway 3-1 (25-19, 23-25, 25-19, 25-19).

Southwestern heads into the offseason and will say good-bye to six seniors including Cline, Savannah Hubbard, Mahoney, Means, Laura Reece and Tyler Smith.

"We're going to miss those seniors. They have meant a lot to this program," Johnson said. "I haven't looked it up yet but they may be close to having the most wins by a class in school history. They have had a lot of success. They have nothing to be ashamed about."