BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – After a hiccup in the second set, the Holy Trinity volleyball team moved on to the Region 8 Class 1A semifinals with a win over WACO at Holy Trinity.
The Crusaders will take on Seymour at 7 p.m. Thursday night in Bloomfield for the right to go the regional championship at 6 p.m. Oct. 30 at Ottumwa’s Evans Middle School.
The Crusaders won 25-11, 27-25, 25-7 and looked like the No. 3 ranked team in Class 1A, but a tough WACO team made the second set interesting.
After not having much of a contest in the first set, the Crusaders appeared to be rolling out to another easy time of it in the second set going up 6-3 on a Warriors defensive error, but then WACO went on a 6-0 run and had the Crusaders out of sorts.
With sophomore Molly McLaughlin serving back-to-back aces to tie the set at 6 and then go ahead 7-6, a Crusaders net error and a kill that went deep from Katie Denning had HTC down 9-6. Denning then got a kill to find wood on the left side to stop the run with HTC down 7-9.
The two teams traded points to 9-11 score before senior Eryn Anderson came up with an ace and then Warriors Ellie Miles pinned the ball against the net and HTC had tied it at 11 forcing a WACO timeout.
Out of the timeout, the two teams would trade barbs until senior Mya Lawlor struck four points together from the service line helped by consecutive kills from senior Emily Box to give HTC a two-point lead. A kill by WACO’s sophomore Lela-Ann Fort tied the game back at 15. The teams would tie at 16, 18, and 21 when freshman Kassi Randolph served up an ace. Anderson would kill the next point with a firm shot to the left back of the court to give HTC a 22-21 lead.
Then WACO responded to go up 24-23 when Anderson’s attack went wide. Box pushed a kill to the right of a block to tie it back at 24. The teams would tie it up again at 25 but a big attack from Box found the floor and senior Taylor Boeding put the Warriors’ hopes for a fourth set out of sight with a kill from her outside hitter spot to end the set 27-25.
HTC turned bully in the third set allowing the Warriors only one point on their own serve to end WACO’s season at 16-13 overall.
Senior Mya Lawlor, who repeatedly offered encouragement to the underclassmen on the floor, typically Bailey Hellweg, Randolph, Denning, and junior Avery Hopper, said the team fell flat in the second game.
“I just think that we play better when we have energy and I think we were losing that energy,” Lawlor said. “Our underclassmen were getting down and it’s important that we stay up and I was just trying to bring that out on the court.”
She said the Crusaders got a little nervy when trailing.
“I think nerves is one part of it. We haven’t played in 11 days and this is the first game of regionals and that relates to the jitters and stuff, but once we settle in we do a lot better,” Lawlor said.
Anderson, who recorded three kills and an ace in the Crusaders’ final six points in the second set, said the emotions of tournament play showed up. Anderson finished 21-22 attacking with 14 kills. She was also 19-20 serving with four aces and a block.
“In the second game we let the emotions of regionals get the best of us,” Anderson said. “We have some youngin’s out there that haven’t experienced this and I think that the week off and the emotion came rushing in and we didn’t play to the best of our ability. The second set was an off-game, but the third game is more like how we play.”
Head coach Melissa Freesmeier said the seniors on the floor, especially Andeerson, kept the Crusaders out of facing a fourth set.
“I could see it in her eyes that she wasn’t go to let that one slip by her. That’s what I said in the lockerroom that the seniors were out there working their butts off and the underclassmen need to step up. It’s time to step up and play and I thought in game 3 everybody did that,” Freesmeier said.
She said for most of the underclassmen this is their first experience in regional action.
“This is a new world for a lot of these kids and they might be a little timid, but they’re good, that’s why they’re out there.”
She said the 11 days wasn’t really a detriment. The Crusaders hadn’t played since Oct. 12 when they swept a four-team Mediapolis Invitational.
“We needed a good week to practice and focus and you always want that game-like situation, but you can only do so much in practice. I thought game 1 was good and game three was good, but game 2 got away from us.”
Box went 28-32 at the net with 20 kills, while Boeding went 18-21 attacking with six kills. Lawlor led the Crusaders on defense with 19 digs.