MUNCIE, Ind. (WANE) – Southwood’s long time head volleyball coach Tom Finicle had a feeling this year’s trip to the 1A state championship could be a different outcome than his last two visits. The Knights previously advanced to the final round in 2009 and 2014, only to see their season end as the state runner-up.

Nine plus 14 equals 23, which is only fitting that it’s the year that Southwood has finally earned a volleyball state championship.

“I thought, ‘Heck, maybe this is our year’,” Finicle recalled last weekend after Southwood’s semi-state win over Blackhawk Christian.

Early on, it appeared Southwood was due for a long afternoon. The Knights dropped their first set against Class 1A No. 1 Tecumseh, 25-15. Southwood surrendered an opening 4-0 run before finally getting on the board.

Southwood’s lone two seniors on this year’s roster – Allie Haecker and Carley Whitesel – helped settle the team down after some opening-match jitters.

“Coach (Finicle) always said, if you get punched in the mouth, you got to punch back,” Whitesel said after Saturday’s match. “You can’t just sit down and take it.”

Southwood punched back in the second set, evening the match with a 25-19 win. From there, it felt like momentum swung towards the Knights.

In a pivotal third set, Southwood and Tecumseh were tied at 23-23 apiece. The Knights relied on defense to close out the set – thanks to blocks from Shania Rhamy, Alexis Lopez and Grace Drake. The Knights gained the upper hand with a 25-23 set three win, putting the Knights a set win away from a state title.

Southwood slammed the door shut with a 25-19 set four win, clinching their first state title in program history.

While Saturday’s win was about long time coach Finicle and the two seniors, Drake stole the show with an all-around performance. The junior finished with a triple-double – 10 kills, 15 assists and 12 digs. Freshman Shania Rhamy piled up a double-double with a team-high 13 kills and 10 digs. Haecker led the way defensively with a team-high 14 digs.

Southwood completes their dream season with a 32-4 record and their first state championship.