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Muncie Burris beats Pioneer in 3, advances to 2A volleyball state final

Nies: Passing issues costly for Lady Panthers


Sports Editor, RTC

Pioneer’s Mackenzie Rogers serves against Muncie Burris in the Lady Panthers’ 25-23, 25-17, 25-20 loss in the Class 2A Frankfort semistate Saturday. Rogers, a Vanguard University recruit, had three kills, a team-high 12 digs, four assists and eight serves received in her final prep match. (photo courtesy of

FRANKFORT — A service error and a shanked service return were the difference between the Pioneer volleyball team and No. 1 Muncie Burris in the first set of their Class 2A semistate match at Frankfort’s Everett Case Arena Saturday.

The Lady Owls took it from there, going on to post a 25-23, 25-17, 25-20 win over the Lady Panthers to advance to the state finals. The semistate title is Muncie Burris’ 13th, most of any school in IHSAA history.

Muncie Burris (30-4) will take on Brownstown Central in the state championship match at approximately 1:30 p.m. this Saturday at Worthen Arena in Muncie. They have 22 state titles, most of any team in IHSAA history.

“That’s a hell of a good team,” Pioneer coach Rod Nies said of the Lady Owls.

Pioneer finished 24-14. They were denied their first trip to the state finals since 2020.

Brooklyn Borges led Pioneer with eight kills. Kylie Attinger had five kills, and Elizabeth Rance and Blair Grigsby had four kills each. Mackenzie Rogers had three kills, four assists, a team-high 12 digs and seven serves received.

Pioneer’s Keirsten Nies sets up a teammate during the Lady Panthers’ 25-23, 25-17, 25-20 loss to Muncie Burris at the Class 2A Frankfort semistate Saturday. Nies led Pioneer with 13 assists. (photo courtesy of

Attinger also had five blocks. Keirsten Nies had a team-high 13 assists to go along with her 10 digs. Adeline Cripe had both 10 digs and 10 serves received.

Grigsby led with 16 serves received, and Rance had 11.

Aubrey Miller led Muncie Burris with 18 kills, and Lilly Howell had 10.

But the deciding stat might have been aces: Muncie Burris had 15 while Pioneer had four.

“Our serve receive left us,” coach Nies said. “That’s what happened those last two sets, especially in set two. I kept telling my girls, ‘Move up. Take them with your hands,’ because they were really serving some really tough float balls. And we just had problems handling them. … They kept backing into them, and nothing good’s going to happen there. You’ve got to stay on the attack. You can’t let the ball attack you; you’ve got to attack the ball.”

Muncie Burris led 20-16 in the first set when Pioneer went on a 6-1 run. It started with a Grigsby dump and a Rance ace.

Muncie Burris coach Jim Craig called timeout, and Aubrey Miller’s kill on the first point after the break made it 21-18.

Pioneer got a sideout on a Miller net violation, and a Blair Grigsby ace made it 21-20. Muncie Burris libero Layla Gonzales missed long on a dig to tie it, and a Kylie Attinger block gave Pioneer a 22-21 lead.

Craig used his second timeout. A Miller kill and a Mya Trammell kill off a Pioneer overpass gave Muncie Burris a 23-22 lead.

Attinger came up huge again, going angle from the outside to make it 23-23.

But Brooklyn Borges missed long with a serve to give the Lady Owls a set point, and the shanked service return gave Muncie Burris the set.

“It was huge,” coach Nies said. “I think we counted, and we had six or seven service errors. That’s two points every time you miss a serve because you give them a point and you give them the ball and you give them all the momentum and any momentum you had, you just lost. It was huge. We take that first set, and anything can happen.”

Said Craig of the end of the first set: “Huge. That’s the game as far as I’m concerned.”

Ironically, Craig said that he thought his team had an unusual amount of service errors, but their serving strategy ultimately paid off.

Pioneer’s Brooklyn Borges rises up for a block on Muncie Burris’ Ja’Maria Jackson during the Lady Panthers’ 25-23, 25-17, 25-20 loss in a Class 2A semistate at Frankfort Saturday. Borges led Pioneer with eight kills. (photo courtesy of

“What we did is we pushed the serve back,” Craig said. “I said, ‘Guys, we’re not going to be serving short. We’re not going to be serving in the middle. We’re going to be serving in the corners as much as we can. Make them have to back up. If you have to back up to pass, the pass doesn’t get to the net. It’s that simple. And so that was to our advantage today.”

Muncie Burris continued operating out of their one-setter system with Avery Seale setting up weapons like Miller, Howell, Trammell and freshman middle hitter Ja’Maria Jackson.

They jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the second set before an Attinger stuff block capped off a run that helped Pioneer inch their way back to 12-8.

But Muncie Burris responded with a 9-1 run to make it 21-9. Trailing 24-12, Pioneer fought off five set points before a Jackson kill closed out the set.

An Attinger kill out of the middle and a Cripe ace helped Pioneer to a 4-2 lead in the third set. Muncie Burris scored five straight points to go up 7-4 before a Keirsten Nies back row kill and an impressive Grigsby kill off a tight set. When Muncie Burris was called for a back row attack, the set was tied.

But Muncie Burris followed with four straight points, and when Addison Pierce’s serve clipped the net and fell on Pioneer’s side of the floor for an ace to make it 11-7, coach Nies called timeout.

Pioneer’s Elizabeth Rance, foreground, and Blair Grigsby get ready for a dig during the Panthers’ 25-23, 25-17, 25-20 loss to Muncie Burris at the Class 2A Frankfort semistate Saturday. (photo courtesy of

Pioneer would hang within 18-14 after a rare Muncie Burris ding dong play in which two players nearly collided going for a dig. Kills by Howell and Jackson extended the lead.

Pioneer hung within 22-18 on a Borges kill from the right on an angle. A Trammell error made it 23-20, but Muncie Burris closed it out with a kill from the towering 6-2 Howell and an ace from Seale sealed the deal.

Nies has won 16 sectionals and nine regionals as Pioneer’s coach. He was asked what sets this team apart.

“I think our versatility,” coach Nies said. “Coming into this season, we knew we were going to be pretty good. We struggled with injuries at the start of the year and some identity issues there during the season. We kind of put it all together during the tournament. Versatility would be one of the things I would say. Not many teams have three setters, and they’re all pretty good. All three can hit. All of my other three middles can all hit from multiple positions. … That’s probably one of the better teams I’ve had.

“We didn’t make down to state, but we gave it a hell of a shot.”

Craig, who took his first head coaching job at Wapahani in 1977, called Pioneer’s three-setter, three-middle system “terrific” and “interesting.”

“That’s what I had to tell them in getting ready for them,” Craig said. “I said, ‘Guys, I don’t know who the heck’s going to set the ball. Just be ready but let’s see what we can do on the serve. Let’s be ready for their block, and we’ll go from there.’ … But if you’ve got kids who can do it, I don’t blame him at all. I’d do it too.”

Muncie Burris def. Pioneer, 25-23, 25-17, 25-20

Pioneer stats

Elizabeth Rance – 4 kills, 2 aces, 3 digs, 11 serves received; Blair Grigsby – 4 kills, 1 ace, 1 block, 5 digs, 3 assists, 16 serves received; Mackenzie Rogers – 3 kills, 2 blocks, 12 digs, 4 assists, 8 serves received; Brooklyn Borges – 8 kills, 1 block, 7 digs; Kylie Attinger – 5 kills, 4 blocks, 1 dig; Keirsten Nies – 1 kill, 1 block, 10 digs, 13 assists, 7 serves received; Adeline Cripe – 1 ace, 10 digs, 1 assist, 10 serves received; Lois Layer – 2 digs

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