By Daniel Karell | Photos by Tony Bennett
If you’ve watched Providence High School volleyball over the past six years, there’s always been two constants: head coach Terri Purichia on the sidelines and a Hornung sister on the court.
First came Jacquie Hornung from 2011 through 2015, followed by Marissa, who is in her fourth and final season of varsity volleyball before heading to Purdue next fall. And the youngster, who may be the best of the three, is freshman Ali, who has dominated the Indiana High School Class 4-A circuit in her first varsity season.
Despite moving up a class after last year’s state final appearance, the Pioneers are motoring through opponents and look just as primed as ever for a deep playoff run. As of Sept. 17, the Pioneers are 21-1, having not lost a set to a school in Southern Indiana.
“How can you not be thrilled with how things are going?,” Marissa Hornung said. “As people have heard, this is the hardest schedule we’ve played, and to look at the teams we beat and played and how we beat them … I’m just extremely proud with the way we’ve handled our schedule. We haven’t had the weekend off. I’m very excited and proud and hopeful for what the future is bringing for the postseason.”
An outside hitter with a fierce spike, the second Hornung sibling has developed into one of Southern Indiana’s all-time best volleyball players. Early in her sophomore year, Marissa committed to Purdue, and she’s improved her game even more, due to experience and injury.
As a junior last season, Marissa was struggling with shoulder and back injuries, forcing her to become more precise with her blasts from the left side, as opposed to overpowering an opponent like she did as a youngster.
“That year was a struggle mentally, but that’s when she improved her craftiness,” Purichia said of Marissa. “She figured out a way to find holes. She’s always been good at picking apart a defense, but she wasn’t able to go up and unload on a ball like she was doing, so she had to get very smart and crafty.”
This season presented another challenge to Marissa. She’s the lone senior on the squad.
As such, she’s taken leadership roles for everyone on the team, wearing many different hats. Sometimes she’s the caring mother, other times the disciplinarian or the competitor.
“She has so many facets to her personality, and she knows when to bring them out,” said Purichia, who won her 500th high school game this season. “She’s the exact kind of leader this young team has needed.”
While Marissa has been the star for the Pioneers the last couple of years, her sister Ali has now earned some of the spotlight. As of Sept. 13, Ali was second on the team behind Marissa with 176 kills – Marissa had 204 – while also racking up 178 digs and 11 service aces.
“Her athleticism is crazy,” Marissa said of her sister.
Ali’s progress on the varsity level and on the club circuit has already garnered her plenty of college interest. The University of Louisville, University of Kentucky, Indiana University and Purdue have all expressed interest, and Ali is even getting some notice from the University of Florida, one of the NCAA Division 1 premier volleyball teams, and one that successfully recruited former Sacred Heart star Paige Hammons.
“I’m really honored,” Ali said of the attention she’s receiving. “It makes me feel more confident if I have a bad day. It just makes me feel more comfortable with my abilities.”
One interesting aspect of the Hornung siblings is that while they’re so much alike, from looks to the fact that they will all wear the No. 12 at some point during their high school career, they also have different personalities.
Jacquie, now a sophomore outside hitter at Bellarmine, is more structured and serious, Marissa said, admitting she herself is more goofy and open to keeping things light in the locker room. Ali though, may be the fiercest competitor of the three.
“Ali is a tremendous athlete and very talented volleyball player,” Purichia said. “Ali lacks a little bit of confidence at times because she’s an extreme perfectionist, she wants to be perfect at everything and she gets rattled sometimes when she’s not perfect.
“This year has been really good for her because there’s so many people on this team that can be effective that the pressure isn’t really on her, so she doesn’t have to be the one to put the ball down.”
Keeping the pressure off Ali should pay dividends for the Pioneers as they prepare for a deep playoff run, with Marissa leading and the pair dominating on the court.