BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
OTTUMWA – The cylinders were all firing and so was junior Emily Box Tuesday night as Holy Trinity advanced to the state volleyball tournament with a three-game win over Southeast Warren-Liberty Center in Class 1A Region 8 finals.
Box finished with 47-49 hitting with 28 kills to lead the Crusaders to a 25-13, 25-15, 25-14 victory at Evans Middle School.
SE Warren was never really in any of the matches as HTC played one of their cleanest matches of the post season with an eye cast to the U.S. Cellular Center and state action beginning on Tuesday, November 7. The Crusaders (37-5) will play Starmont (30-5) in first round action on Wednesday, November 8, 8pm, on Court One.
“We knew we had to control our side of the net,” said head coach Melissa Freesmeier. “Our kids did a good job of that, controlling the tempo of the game. Southeast Warren did a good job of keeping the ball up and we had some great plays. Our kids stayed intense and kept pushing points. Good night for us, though we missed a few serves and that happens with the nerves.”
The Crusaders got all over the Warhawks early pushing a 10-2 lead in game one with highlighted by four kills by Box, while junior Taylor Boeding served six straight, and Mya Lawlor adding three service points with another Box kill. Southeast Warren was called on four double hits in the first five plays and moved away from setting in favor of bump sets in the early one.
With Box playing full rotation, she moved into the back row and Eryn Anderson took over at the net for HTC. After sending her first long, she converted three straight kills to push HTC’s lead to 16-4. The blue kept Southeast Warren at a 12-point deficit the rest of the game, which ended on another double hit by the Warhawks.
Game two started with an attack that went long by Box, but then she put away five points of HTC’s first six. The Warhawks stayed close with a kill by junior Blaire Steenhoek at 6-5, but the Crusaders’ fluid rotation and defense proved to be too much as Boeding, Anderson, and senior Maya Rashid kept the visitors confused by moving the ball well all along the net. HTC ran out to a 20-11 lead with Box serving before Steenhoek put another point away to get SE Warren within eight 20-12. HTC outscored them 5-2 running away with a Box kill to put the game away 25-15.
The final game quickly turned ugly for the Warhawks as HTC raced to a 6-0 lead with Anderson serving and the whole front line of Box, Boeding, and Madison Mohrfeld all recording kills, forcing a Warhawk time out. The Crusaders would keep SE Warren at a 7 point deficit throughout the game and pushed it to 9 on a Box kill at 22-13. She repeatedly pounded the midlines of SE Warren’s defense on the next two points and finished the match with a kill at 25-14.
Freesmeier said the kids should enjoy the game, but they will quickly move to thinking about state play.
“We gotta go next game mode. We’ll pick up the pieces tonight and see who we’ve got to play and scout. But these kids can sit back and enjoy this win tonight. It was just a great team effort tonight.”
Junior Elyse Pothitakis, who had five digs on the game and played libero for the entire season until Mya Lawlor’s return in the second round of post season play, said the Crusaders’ strategy was to control their side of the net.
“This game, we knew coming in it wasn’t going to be easy. We knew it would be somewhat of a fight, after all, they got to this point, too,” she said. “But we really took care of our side of the net and we knew if we could do that, we’d be fine.”
She said previous trips to state have been nervous for her, so she said she’s a bit more prepared this time.
“There’s always nerves going into it. All the juniors and seniors have our part to play and we just need to stay strong.”
Box said the difference in this game was the lack of hard attacks from the Warhawks.
“We were consistent this game. They didn’t have many hard attacks and we were able to set things up and get big kills,” she said.
She said state play will be different for her this year because her role has changed.
“This year I played full rotation and I’m looking to get the ball as much as possible. For me, I’m the one that can get that big kill and they look to me for that. So this year at state I just need to stay focused and on top of my game.”
Rashid said state will be different for her this year because she’s the main setter in the team’s 5-1 scheme.
“We’re running a 5-1 and I don’t have my buddy Ali (Randolph) anymore so I have to really lead the team in setting. This year we’ve quickened up the offense but if we control our runs we’re gonna be ok,” she said.
Eryn Anderson was 11 of 13 hitting with eight kills and Boeding was 17-22 attacking with seven kills. Madison Mohrfeld was 9-11 with two kills and Sam Hoenig was 9 of 10 attacking with three kills.
Anderson was also 18 of 18 serving with two aces and eight digs. Boeding was 20 of 22 serving with 2 aces and 17 digs, and Mya Lawlor was 7 of 7 serving and had 20 digs to lead the Crusaders. Maya Rashid had 45 sets to lead the Crusaders again.
Tickets for the 2017 Iowa State Volleyball Tournament Nov. 7-10 at the Cedar Rapids US Cellular Center are now available for advance purchase through Ticketmaster with reduced convenience fees. Tickets will no longer be mailed to state qualifying volleyball schools.