Crusaders one match from return to Cedar Rapids

Claire Pothitakis attacks in the first game of the Crusaders 25-4, 25-11, 25-7 win over Seymour in Class 1A Region 8 semifinals Thursday at Van Buren. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

KEOSAUQUA – It’s was about 48 minutes of volleyball and suddenly Seymour’s season was over.

The Lady Warriors put up very little struggle as the 8th-ranked Holy Trinity Crusaders rolled to a 25-4, 25-11, 25-7 sweep at Van Buren High School Thursday night.

The game was originally scheduled to be played at Fort Madison High School, but the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Association moved the game on Wednesday.

Junior Bailey Hellweg (24) attacks from just off the front line in the first game of HTCs’ 3-game sweep of Seymour in the Class 1A Region 8 semifinals at Van Buren Thursday night. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

Tuesday’s Class 1A regional final will pit the Crusaders against 7th-ranked New London at Fort Madison High School beginning at 7 p.m. New London disposed of WACO 3-1 in New London on the other side of the bracket Thursday night.

HTC and New London have split matches this year, but the Tigers hold a 4-3 game advantage over HTC on the season.

Seymour bows out after sweeping Moravia and Wayne in three games each. Holy Trinity got a first round bye and then swept Burlington Notre Dame Monday at home.

The Crusaders raced out to an 8-0 lead on the 8-8 of serving from sophomore Kassi Randolph. Randolph missed on number 9 giving Seymour it’s first point. Seymour’s McKinley McClure would offer up a serve, but HTC’s Claire Pothitakis had an attack blocked and then came back with a kill to get the side out.

HTC would then race out to a 14-1 lead with senior Maille Sheerin serving six straight including an ace. Pothitakis had a kill go wide right at 14-1 for the side out, but senior Avery Hopper would record a kill to the center wood to give the ball back. Pothitakis would get the rally going again and Seymour couldn’t respond to the Crusaders’ power up front.

Sophomore Kassi Randolph gets a tip at the net Monday night against Seymour. Randolph finished with seven kills on the night and had a team high 20 assists. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

Hopper would record three more kills in the rally and junior Bailey Hellweg would clean up the first game serving five straight and recording three aces for the 25-4 win.

Hopper who is known for big blocks on defense and some well placed taps for kills said she’s filling her role but the offense usually rotates to Pothitakis.

“It just has to do with getting set up,” Hopper said. “I’m in the front with Claire a lot and she’s an amazing hitter so we try to work the ball over to her.”

Pothitakis had just one kill in the first game, as the Crusaders’ service game kept Seymour from being able to get into it’s offense.

The second game started quickly again at 11-1, but Pothitakis took control with five kills in the rally. Maria Rauenbuehler went 9-9 serving in the run including two aces to start the game. She also just missed a diving dig on a McClure kill at 8-1.

Seymour would cut the gap to 16-6 when the Crusaders got a case of the yips at the net. Pothitakis and Hopper both missed attacks – one wide and one long. Freshman Brooke Mueller would also go wide to allow the Warriors to get within eight. But after another long attack by HTC, Mueller recorded a kill for the side out.

Hellweg and junior Taylor Crabtree both went ace and error on two service attempts allowing Seymour to stay within 10 at 20-10, but Pothitakis and Randolph found wood, and Hellweg ended the game with a kill from the center.

It was much the same in game three, but Seymour did hold a lead at 3-2 in that game when junior Katie Denning hit wide. That’s about all the fight the Warriors would have as Sheerin reeled off six straight including two more aces.

Sheerin would miss on seven, but Seymour would get whistled for four hits turning the serve back over to HTC where Pothitaks went eight clean from the service line with the Crusader front rotation in full gear recording five kills in a row, two by Hellweg and Hopper and one from Mueller to make it 16-5.

Seymour would manage just two more points, one on an HTC missed serve and the last on McClure kill as Holy Trinity ran away on a 9-2 run.

Hopper said she and Sheerin are trying to provide leadership on the floor, but she said whoever is on the floor knows what her role is.

“We just been working really hard during the season and I think the seniors on the floor and those coming off the bench help to get everyone going,” Hopper said.

“But in the end everyone pretty much knows what to do and that helped us take control tonight.”

Head Coach Melissa Freesmeier said Hopper sees the court very well and mixes in swings to the deep corners to keep the other side off balance.

“They’re not sure what they’re going to get with her on the front line and that attributes to how hard she’s been working, along with the rest of the team, as the season’s progressed.”

Freesmeier said with the score getting lopsided she had to challenge the kids to stay focused.

“We did the things we needed to do to keep it as lopsided as it was,” she said.

“I thought our kids did a great job of keeping it reined in. We had some errors, but we hit the ball well tonight. That’ll happen you lose a little focus when you get that far ahead.”

Pothitakis finished with a team-high 11 kills on 18-21 hitting. She was also 16-16 serving with two aces and 6 digs. Hopper had eight kills and Randolph finished with seven, to go with a team-high 20 assists on the night.

Rauenbuehler had seven digs to lead HTC. Sheerin was 13-15 serving with face aces and Hellweg was 9-of-10 at the line with four aces.

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