As a four-year starter, outside hitter Morgan Hogue can explain Indian Creek’s rapid ascent on the volleyball court this season.
“It’s completely different,” Hogue said. “We always had the talent, but we didn’t have the person to bring out that talent.
That person arrived this season in the form of Jeff Fishburn, the Braves’ fourth head coach in six years.
The change has been immediate. After taking part in the Knightstown Invitational on Saturday, Indian Creek (15-5) already has surpassed last season’s win total.
At the center of every pre- and post-match huddle is Fishburn, an energetic 42-year-old who previously coached at Greenwood Christian Academy before leaving midway through the 2016 season for personal reasons.
Fishburn’s passion for volleyball and the young ladies he coaches allows the 1993 Mooresville graduate to maximize each player’s output in an effort to establish a winning culture.
The Braves enter the week having won 10 of their last 12 matches despite the absence of Hogue, who suffered a torn meniscus in a five-set win against Southport on Aug. 29.
Hogue is expected to return in time for the postseason, and Indian Creek has plenty of other talented players who can carry the load until then.
Junior Taylor Burkett leads the Braves in both kills and blocks, while sophomore Madison Simmons is second in kills. Junior setter Malea Brownfield is tops in two categories (assists and service aces), while senior libero Tori Travers, a co-captain with Hogue, is flirting with the 200 mark in digs for the season.
The team’s other seniors are outside hitter Mallory Hogue — Morgan’s twin sister and the younger of the two by 11 minutes — and middle hitter Emma Dennis.
Indian Creek had largely the same lineup a year ago but finished with a 12-14 record. The players credit Fishburn with helping push them to another level.
“I think our team has always had potential. What’s different is that we have a coach who is bringing that out in us,” Travers said. “His energy helps a lot. He really gets us excited for each match.
“I had started to lose some of my passion for volleyball, but (Fishburn) made me have passion for it again.”
Indian Creek’s postseason volleyball accomplishments are few and far between (sectional championships in 1972 and 1997), which only serves to further motivate the tradition-conscious Fishburn.
The coach would like nothing more than to pick up the program’s first sectional trophy in two decades. Opportunity knocks Oct. 10, when the Braves begin hosting a six-team Class 3A sectional.
“The very first thing I said to the girls is, ‘Does anybody know what the significance of 1997 is?’, and no one knew, obviously. None of them were born yet,” Fishburn said. “I told them I’m here to win a sectional championship.
“Now I’m here to do more than that. I want to win a state championship, but we have to take baby steps based on where the program has been. You can come in here and do all the work in the word, but if the kids don’t believe that their coach loves them and cares about them, they’re not going to play for you.”
Indian Creek has been playing for Fishburn, and it’s showing.
Indian Creek hadn’t experienced much volleyball success recently, but that’s changing quickly this season. A look at the program’s win-loss records over the past five years:
2017;15-5 (through 9/16)