BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DANVILLE – Holy Trinity is going into Saturdays’ Southeast Iowa Superconference tournament title with a little bit of revenge on their minds.
The 3rd-ranked Class 1A Crusaders blew through pool play Thursday night in Danville knocking off Danville, Lone Tree, Cardinal of Eldon and Pekin with little resistance.
Head Coach Melissa Freesmeier said last year’s loss in the conference tournament championship to New London didn’t sit well with the girls.
“Finishing second last year, that kind of left a sour taste in our mouths,” Freesmeier said after Holy Trinity wrapped up the four-match tournament Thursday night.
In four matches with each match being the best two of out three to 21, the Crusaders missed on just eight serves. Taylor Boeding who had a stellar night in the front and back row, had 33% of playable serves go for aces. She served 39 of 42 from the service line with 13 aces, had 29 digs, and was 26 of 29 at the net attacking with 10 kills.
“Taylor Boeding was all over the court, servingwise and defensewise. Our defense, with her and Elyse, those two are just there in the back doing there jobs every night,” Freesmeier said.
The Crusaders made quick work of Danville 21-11, 21-11 and Lone Tree 21-7, 21-4 before a break in play. Then squared off against Cardinal of Eldon in the third match. HTC raced out to a quick 6-3 lead when senior Emily Box made a kill at the interior front. She then stepped back on the side out and served up an ace. Two Cardinal errors on attacks had the Crusaders up 9-3. It was then a 10-2 run for Holy Trinity that put the first set out of reach.
Cardinal went on a 5-0 run with Junior Rachel Lewman serving. HTC senior Eryn Anderson had a couple of kills go long and an error at the net, but then HTC put the game away on a double hit by Eldon. In the second set, the Comets got a bit offensive minded out of the gate with a back-to-back kills from Maddie Cloke and Madison Guiter, but Boeding ended the threat with a kill at 3-2.
HTC would then go on a 12-3 run with Anderson putting up a couple blocks with Katie Denning pairing up at the net. Anderson also had two kills at 10 and 12. Freshman Kassi Randolph reeled off 10 straight service points, including four aces in the run to put the Crusaders up 17-5. Box got kills at 19 and 20 and then a net error by the Comets gave Holy Trinity the match.
It was much the same with Pekin when HTC held onto the ball for most of the match with long serving stretches from Anderson and sophomore Bailey Hellweg. Box, who finished with 25 kills on 38-42 hitting on the night, had four kills and a block in the run. Anderson and junior Avery Hopper teamed up for some blocks on the right side to give HTC a comfortable 17-4 lead. Boeding would fire another ace keeping the Panthers off base moving her serve around the court. An attack that went long by Pekin ended the game at 21-7.
The Crusaders pushed to a 10-4 lead in the final set of the night with a couple aces from Hellweg and Boeding, but then Pekin couldn’t get out of their own way committing five errors in a 7-point swing before senior Ellie Ledger found the floor with an attack to cut the lead to 16-6. Anderson and Box would set the tone the rest of the way with four kills over the next five points to end any thought of a Pekin rally.
Freesmeier said the girls were able to keep the energy up throughout the four matches and got the job done.
“We wanted to come out of here as the No. 1 seed and get onto Saturday,” she said. “We needed to keep our energy up and we did a pretty good job that. We did what we were supposed to do tonight.
Anderson was 27-35 with 17 kills and Claire Pothitakis was 28-31 hitting with 10 kills. Randolph led the Crusaders with 34 assists and Hellweg added 29. Elyse Pothitakis had 23 digs on defense. Box and Hopper each had six blocks on the night.
The conference finals start at 5 p.m. Saturday at Southeastern Community College. The Crusaders have yet to drop a set this season and improved one spot in the state rankings with Starmont moving from 3rd in Class 1A to 5th.