BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – What started out with flowers and laughter ended with frustration and disbelief as Holy Trinity suffered it’s first home loss in more than a year Tuesday night.
Central Lee sophomore Mya Merschman and the Lady Hawks ruined senior night for Class 1A No.3 HTC, knocking off the Crusaders in five sets 24-26, 25-8, 25-14, 23-25, 12-15 in front of a full Shottenkirk Gymnasium.
The two teams battled through the first set exchanging leads several times with momentum going one way and then the other throughout the match. HTC senior Emily Box, who surpassed the 1,500 kill mark for her career at Holy Trinity, was kept off balance by a double block from Merschman and a rotation of Hawks that included senior McKenna Hall, freshman Meghan Hopp and junior Kaylynn Sommers.
Several of the points saw rallies of 12 to 15 sides before a point was scored.
Box said after the loss the girls were excited about senior night and that may have been a distraction.
“We came out and it was our senior night and we were really excited,” Box said. “I think we took that excitement a bit too far and didn’t do the little things we could have done to win.”
With the first lost set of the year in non-tournament action, the Crusaders seem to have put things back on the right track in the second set, when Box had five kills in the first seven points and Holy Trinity had kept a 15-17 point cushion. Central Lee kept up the pressure, but couldn’t make up enough ground to get back in the game forcing a minimum of four sets.
Holy Trinity kept the gas on in the third set and everything seemed to be back to normal as the Crusaders created some space and hoped to shore things up in the fourth set.
The two teams again stayed with two points of each other the whole fourth set until Central Lee went up 20-23. Holy Trinity was able to tie up the match at 23 but Central Lee would get back-to-back points to send it to a tie breaker.
Both teams suffered points in the tie breaker where a ball would fall between two and three girls but most of the action took place at the net with Holy Trinity trying to block with junior Avery Hopper, Box and Senior Eryn Anderson. Very few points were scored with solid kills, but defensive errors and a lot of balls crawling across the tape where girls were sliding trying to recover.
The Hawks benefited from two Kaylynn Sommers serves that hit the tape and crept over the net causing problems for the Crusaders.
Head Coach Melissa Freesmeier said the Crusaders were out of sync most of the night.
“We were never really able to get into our tempo aside from that second game,” she said. “We were dealing with some sets that were going higher than we’re used to, but this is the adversity we’re going to face in the post-season and we have to be ready for that.”
She said the Crusaders need to take the loss as an opportunity going forward and not dwell on the emotion of the match.
“We’re gonna bring this with us to practice tomorrow. We’ve got a tough match again on Thursday.”
She said she didn’t think the loss would change much for the post season.
“Sometimes I think people forget they are supposed to beat us. They’re a Class 3A school and they came to play,” Freesmeier said.
Box said the loss should prove as motivation going forward.
“This loss should only make us stronger,” she said. “In the end it only matter’s how the post-season goes. These are the tough games that we have to play to get to state and this only makes us stronger.
Box, senior Taylor Boeding and Anderson led the Crusaders at the net combining for 51 kills on and going 114-131 attacking. Sophomore Bailey Hellweg and freshman Kassi Randolph combined for 50 assists on the night. Seniors Mya Lawlor and Elyse Pothitakis combined for 30 digs. Box had four blocks.
Merschman was 50-54 attacking with 15 kills to lead Central Lee. She also had six blocks and was 15-16 serving with an ace. Zoe Eschman had 31 assists for the Lady Hawks and Hall had 34 digs. Central Lee improves to 22-9 on the year, while the Class 1A 3rd ranked Crusaders fall to 29-3 on the season.