BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
FORT MADISON – There is a different level, even with inexperience, for Holy Trinity’s volleyball team once it gets into the postseason.
It showed in Monday’s 25-12, 25-19, 25-20 win over Notre Dame in the Class 1A regional quarterfinal at Holy Trinity.
The No. 8 Crusaders (26-10) play host to Seymour (16-16) in Thursday’s semifinal.
Holy Trinity is going after its 10th consecutive trip to the state tournament, but the Crusaders have had a few ups-and-downs this season.
This match, coach Melissa Freesmeier said, was one of the Crusaders’ better efforts.
“It’s fun when they do what they’re capable of doing,” Freesmeier said.
The Crusaders split their last four matches of the regular season, but this felt more like the usual Holy Trinity night in late October.
The Nikes (18-19) came in on a six-match winning streak, but they didn’t have a lead until the start of the third set, when they opened with the first five points.
It was a balanced hitting attack for Holy Trinity. Claire Pothitakis had 12 kills, Brooke Mueller had six, Avery Hopper had five, Kassi Randolph had four, Bailey Hellweg had three and Katie Denning had two.
“We did the things we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks,” Freesmeier said. “We told them to be aggressive, and I think we were tonight.”
The Crusaders dominated the opening set, building an early 7-2 lead. Notre Dame battled back to within 22-11 before Holy Trinity closed the set by winning three of the final four points.
The second set looked like it would be just as dominating. Holy Trinity scored the first seven points and led 15-6 before Notre Dame rallied.
Holy Trinity was up 17-8 when Notre Dame’s Katy Stephens took over. Stephens, who had 11 of her 12 kills in the final two sets, had three kills in an 11-3 run, but Holy Trinity closed the set by scoring five consecutive points, the last two coming on kills from Hopper.
Notre Dame’s first lead came in the third set, when the Nikes scored the first five points. Notre Dame was up 6-2 before the two teams exchanged five-point runs.
The crucial stretch came with the score tied at 16, when Pothitakis had three consecutive kills and the Crusaders were in command. Hopper’s tip fell to the court on match point, and Holy Trinity was advancing.
It’s all about confidence.
“These kids, when they realize how good they really are, can really do great things,” Freesmeier said.