Crusaders roll to 10th straight state tourney

The Holy Trinity Catholic Crusaders are Class 1A Region 8 champs and will play in the state volleyball tournament beginning Wednesday, Nov. 13 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

HTC opens Nov. 13 as 7th seed vs No. 2 Council Bluffs St. Albert


FORT MADISON – The 10th consecutive trip to the state tournament for Holy Trinity’s volleyball team is one that was built over the entire season.

Which is why coach Melissa Freesmeier got a little emotional after the Crusaders’ four-set win over New London in Tuesday’s Class 1A regional final at Fort Madison High School.

“This one’s special,” Freesmeier said. “From the beginning of the year, we fought. These kids grew up right in front of our eyes.

Juniors Bailey Hellweg (24) and Katie Denning (22) put up a block on New London’s Sofie Reighard (9) in the third set of the Crusaders’ 4-set win to advance to the Class 1A state tournament. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“It means everything,” said junior Claire Pothitakis, who led Holy Trinity with 18 kills. “We’ve been going for the past nine years. To go another time, it’s just amazing.”

“Every year it’s special, every year it’s a new group,” said sophomore Kassi Randolph, who had 11 kills. “We worked really hard. We knew our ultimate goal was to get to state, and we did it.”

The 23-25, 25-14, 25-20, 25-21 win over the Tigers sent Holy Trinity (28-10) to next week’s state tournament in Cedar Rapids. The Crusaders are the seventh seed, and will play No. 2 seed Council Bluffs St. Albert (24-9) at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Freshman Brooke Mueller puts up an attack on the final point of HTC’s 4th-set win over 7th ranked New London Tuesday night in Fort Madison. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

Holy Trinity and New London split two matches this season before this matchup, and this one appeared to be one that would go the distance.
And it started to look like that would be quite possible when New London held a 19-16 lead in the fourth set and had momentum while Pothitakis had rotated out of the game.

But so many other Crusaders took over in a stretch when they scored eight of the next nine points. Avery Hopper, Brooke Mueller and Randolph each had two kills in that stretch, and Randolph and Bailey Hellweg combined on a block that set up match point. The Tigers fought off one match point before Mueller’s kill finished the match.

“We had some other young ones step up and get some kills,” Freesmeier said. “They weren’t afraid to swing. Avery wasn’t afraid to swing, Brooke was there ready to go, and Kassi found herself after Game 1 and did some great things. You can’t say enough about our defense — they kept us in the game.

“Just a great, great team effort.”

The 8th-ranked Holy Trinity Crusaders celebrate their 10th consecutive trip to Class 1A State volleyball tournament with a 4-set win over 7th-ranked New London Monday night. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

New London had momentum with the win in the first set, then the Crusaders snatched it back with a dominating second set. The Tigers had early control of the third set before Holy Trinity battled back, ending it on a Mueller kill.

The Crusaders started this season 6-4. But they head to state on a five-match winning streak.

“I think it was just team unity,” Pothitakis said.

“We worked harder than ever,” Randolph said.

“These kids have worked their tails off all week, and all year, to get where they’re going,” Freesmeier said. “These young kids, they fought hard. They deserved this tonight.”

Junior Claire Pothitakis attacks against the New London front defense in the fourth set. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC
Sophomore Kassi Randolph dumps an attack over the top of New London freshman Keaura Williams in the second set. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC
Bailey Hellweg and Katie Denning put up a block on the Tigers’ senior Addie Pry in the third set Monday night at Fort Madison High School. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC
HTC senior Abby Dingman celebrates a winning point during the 4th set of the Crusaders win Monday night. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg

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