BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEST BURLINGTON – Holy Trinity Catholic head girls volleyball coach Melissa Freesmeier said people are forgetting that she started five sophomores last year.
The West Burlington Falcons won’t be forgetting that any time soon as the 2nd-ranked Class 1A Lady Crusaders handled their first test of the season in fine form knocking off Class 3A West Burlington in three straight sets 25-19, 25-12, 25-16 to highlight Southeast Iowa girls Superconference action Tuesday night.
It looked as if the Falcons, 3-1 coming into the contest, were going to make HTC earn the lofty status in the first game of the set having HTC tied at 7s before junior Taylor Boeding stepped to the line and reeled off four straight service points including an ace. Boeding got some help from two back-to-back kills by Eryn Anderson to take a 10-7 lead. West Burlington battled back with three straight points off HTC miscues and a kill by the Falcon freshman Sydney Marlow. Alyssa Dameron biffed a serve and gave the Crusaders a 12-11 lead.
Junior Emily Box had a kill at 13 and Sam Hoenig fired an ace to put HTC back up by 2. Aside from an Eryn Anderson fault at service, Box and Boeding combine for three kills to give the Crusaders a little breathing room at 17-13. The two teams exchanged points to about 22-17 and then Box and Hoenig blocked a kill at the net to put HTC up 22-17. Box had another kill on the next point before the Falcons put together three straight including an ace by Dameron. But Box sealed the game with a kill in the next point.
The Crusaders made quick work of the second set with Elyse Pothitakis going 12 of 13 serving including seven straight to start the match. The junior then put up five straight to push HTC from a 15-10 lead to a 20-10 lead including two aces.
After the game Freesmeier commended Pothitakis’ play.
“Elyse, I had her running around ragged and she was just doing a great job on defense,” Freesmeier said.
Box had two more kills in the final five points. That, coupled with a tip-over from senior Maya Rashid and a kill and an ace from Sam Hoenig, sent the match to a third game. The third game was again a bit more balanced through the first 10 points with HTC holding a slim 10-7 lead, but Hoenig went on a run from the line giving the Crusaders a comfortable 18-10 lead. The Falcons managed to trade points with Holy Trinity, but couldn’t ever muster a run and the Crusaders ended it on a Box kill.
Box ended the game with 10 attacks and 23 kills and only three errors on the night. Box also recorded 11 digs and three block assists.
“Box is just a great asset,” Freesmeier said. “We know we can go to her if we need a quick kill and we know she’ll get the job done. We keep her in full rotation now so she’s got that shot from the back row, too.”
Pothitakis went 19 to 20 serving with three aces. She also had eight digs. Anderson had 10 attacks, 10 kills, and five digs on the night. Boeding had 13 digs and was 10 of 11 from the service line. Hoenig was 15 of 15 at the line with three aces. Senior Maya Rashid was all over the floor with 39 assists on the night
It was the first outing of the season for Holy Trinity and Freesmeier said once they got the nerves out they played pretty well.
“You know, we’re still a little rusty, but we did some really good things tonight,” she said. “Our offense is starting to come together. This was the first game, so we got those first-game jitters out of the way. I think it’s going to be a fun year. These kids are focused and it’s going to be a pleasure to watch them get better and better as the season goes.”
As for the No. 2 ranking to start the season, Freesmeier said she didn’t really expect that, but the team isn’t wrapped up in the hype.
“No, I didn’t expect a top 2 but we gave them a good run at the state tournament last year and sometimes they don’t forget that. But we try not to focus on the ranking and just focus on one game at a time. I told them for the first game ‘I’ll take that’ – we did some really good things.”