Muncie is widely considered the volleyball capital of Indiana, and rightfully so, as the Delaware County area has produced state contenders in Indiana high school ranks from the sports inception in 1972.
While there were no state champions or finalists in La Porte County this season, its teams collectively enjoyed one of the best years in recent memory.
“I think it’s underrated,” Michigan City coach TR Harlan said. “People don’t understand how good the volleyball is.”
Harlan’s Wolves reached the Class 4A La Porte Regional final. In 3A, New Prairie made a surprising run to the semistate. Class A South Central won a sectional. That list doesn’t even include La Porte, the best of the bunch, which ran the table in the Duneland Athletic Conference at 14-0 before falling to state runner-up Penn in five games in the sectional semifinals.
“The level of play is why I gravitated toward this area in the first place,” said New Prairie coach Jordan Staus, the 3A coach of the year for District 3 Northwest. “I love competing especially against solid opponents. I was hooked in the first few weeks of volleyball this season with how much faster the game was played and the high levels of volleyball IQ in the area. I believe that our schedule does help prepare us for post-season life, especially when we play schools like La Porte and Michigan City.”
Harlan was likewise named the top 4A coach in District 4 North. He’s 89-21 in three years at City and 379-174 in 16 years total.
“It’s quite an honor,” Harlan said. “When I came here, I wanted to establish Michigan City as one of the premier volleyball programs in the area. I’d like to think I’ve taken a lot of steps toward that. When you get to this level, you have to surround yourself with great people. I had a great staff who did a lot of work. I’ve got great players, great kids. My name may be on the award, but it’s a group award. It’s a Michigan City award. It’s not a TR award.”
Staus also shared the credit for her personal recognition.
“The nomination and award was completely unexpected,” she said. ”...I just enjoy the thrill of coaching athletes who share the same passion for the game and my reward is getting into the gym every day to do that. I appreciate the honor and hope it further acknowledges the achievements of New Prairie volleyball players this season.”
While Staus’ Elise Swistek was a noticeable omission on the list of players, City and La Porte both had three all-district selections in Emily Kinney, Hannah Noveroske and Reece Shirley (MC), and Reilly Briggs, Kara Cooper, and Gillian Santana (LP). All six were also all-Duneland Athletic Conference selections with Briggs named the conference MVP. Marquette Catholic’s Brianna Moyer was a 1A North pick.
There is high-level college talent throughout the group. Briggs is bound for Northern Kentucky, Cooper for Valparaiso, Santana for Indianapolis and Kinney for Ferris State. Noveroske will play basketball at Xavier, but would have been a Division I player in volleyball had she chosen that route. Shirley’s recruiting process is ongoing.
“It’s nice to see the kids get the recognition,” Harlan said. “It’s impressive across the board.”
Reilly Briggs, Kara Cooper, Gillian Santana (La Porte)
Emily Kinney, Hannah Noveroske, Reece Shirley (Michigan City)
Coach: TR Harlan (Michigan City)
Coach: Jordan Staus (New Prairie)
Brianna Moyer, Marquette Catholic