BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
Neither head coach of the Holy Trinity Catholic Crusaders varsity volleyball teams thinks their respective squads are where they should be at this point in the season, but optimism abounds during the holidays.
Boys varsity Head Coach John Hellige said he had hoped his team would be in the upper level of the Southeast Iowa Superconference, but Tuesday’s matchup with a quick Central Lee team could set things on a better course.
The senior heavy group of Cory Hopper, Connor Conrad and Bailey Merschman have formed a nucleus that is putting up close to 45 points per game combined. Hopper is 2nd in the SEI Superconference at 18 points per game with Conrad right behind at 3rd with 17 points per game.
“They’re certainly our senior leadership and we’re counting on those guys to carry us to victory,” Hellige said. “I’m pleased where we’re at at this point in the season, but it is my expectation that we would be playing with the top teams in the conference.”
The Crusaders (3-2) currently stand in 4th place in the superconference behind 4-0 New London, 4-1 Danville, ranked 4th in Class A, and 4-1 West Burlington.
“I feel we let one slip away from us against West Burlington last week,” Hellige said. “Central Lee is a tough well-coached team and we’ll have to match their speed and physical game.”
“Cory and Connor have been grinding it out and producing all year. But I’m really hoping Bailey continues to show signs of being a dominant post player.”
Hellige also has praise for another senior, who’s stepped into the less than glamorous roll of assist man.
“Ben Tinguely has really stepped up for us and shown some leadership, too. We had some absences in the early part of the season and he was rushed into a starting role and now he’s our leader in assist-turnover ratio and I’ve been very pleased with his work.”
The Lady Crusaders stand at 3-3 on the season and are paced by sophomore Taylor Boeding at just under 14 points per game and senior Ali Randolph is second on the team at 8 points per game.
Head Coach Tony Johnson said the team isn’t where he would like them to be either but his younger team is learning a lot this year and actually starting to gel.
“Yeah, we’re behind where I thought we would be at this point, but we did lose our point guard from last year and we’re still looking for someone to lead,” he said.
Johnson also said the team’s 48% from the free throw stripe isn’t helping anything either. The Crusaders have gone to the line 126 times this year, second in the conference, but only converted 61 of the freebies.
“Free throws are killing us. We’re getting to the line, we’re obviously just not executing.”
Central Lee brings guards Anna and McKenzie Krehbiel to the table and both are averaging over double figures.
“They have some really good guards in the Krehbiel girls. We’ll have to close down on their shooting and stop the dribble penetration.”
The girls varsity games kick off the Central Lee tilt at 6 p.m. with boys to follow. And then both teams travel to Danville on Friday night with a 6 p.m. start.