By Justin Whitaker
MUNCIE — After experiencing crushing defeat in 2011, the Avon Orioles responded with the best redemption possible, a state championship.
A season after going 39-0, being ranked nationally and losing to Penn in the state finals 3-1, Avon responded by winning the Class 4A 2012 state championship over Carmel, 3-2.
“This is just the most amazing feeling,” Avon senior Kayla Springer said. “Coming here, this is always what we’ve wanted all season. To be in this moment, to do it for anyone who ever played in this program and do it for the seniors last year, I cannot even put it into words how incredible it is.”
Sophomore Beth Prince also had trouble describing the emotions of winning a state title.
“I’m freaking out right now,” she said. “All of us just came through, if you watch that game it was a complete team effort. One person didn’t stick out, it was everybody pulling together and doing their job on the court.”
Leading 2-1, before the fourth set, Avon coach Scott McQueen said he told an assistant coach, ‘If we lose this one, it will be way more crushing than last year was.’
McQueen didn’t have to worry about that, although there were some tense moments leading up to the victory.
“Last year was so special and those kids had such a great run,” McQueen said. “This year hasn’t been as easy as it was coming into it. I felt we were given as tough as a road as anybody. We were on the road practically everywhere.”
Experiencing two back-to-back defeats early in the season, including one to Carmel and struggling through part of the year helped prepare the Orioles compared to cruising through last year.
“Not having a perfect season, going through the ups and downs, made us stronger and more mentally prepared,” Orioles sophomore Calle Weddle said.
Making it to state once is special for any team, but to make it in back-to-back seasons and win the second year is certainly a meaningful accomplishment.
“Last year, yes we blew through it and we had a tough game, this year we had some ups and downs and it kind of got us ready for it,” Avon senior Emily Graves said.
The defeat suffered last season sat in the minds of the Orioles all year and pushed them to Avon’s second team state championship in school history.
“Last year was just motivation for this year,” Weddle said. “The feeling of losing motivated us so much more because we knew how it felt and we wouldn’t want that to happen again. It drove us to work even harder.”
The adversity compared to last season was the determining factor for Avon according to Prince.
“Last year we didn’t lose a game until this thing and this year we lost along the way,” she said. “Honestly it was probably a good thing.”
Avon featured three seniors this season in Graves, Springer and Lauren Johnson. Springer was happy to go out on top with her fellow seniors.
“Emily and Lauren are just so incredible. We worked so hard this entire season. We really came into leadership roles,” Springer said. “For the three of us to grow together, it’s just incredible.”
After being banned from consuming fried food and soda during the season, how are the Orioles going to celebrate the state championship?
“I’m going to go eat some French fries and a coke,” Prince said. “And it’s going to be awesome.”