No. 1 Crusaders settle in for sweep of Hounds

HTC freshman Mary Kate Bendlage attacks from the outside right spot in the second set Monday night. The Class 1A No. 1 Crusaders downed Fort Madison in three sets at the Hound Dome. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC


FORT MADISON – It was Holy Trinity’s seventh match of the volleyball season.
It was the first one since August 29.
And it showed, especially early.
The Crusaders, playing at Fort Madison High School on Monday night in a match that originally wasn’t on the varsity schedule, spent most of the first game hitting the ball to the deepest part of the gymnasium.
“I think we were anxious, overanxious,” coach Melissa Freesmeier said. “Fast to the net, hitting, balls kept going out the back door. That’s adrenaline.
“Once we settled in, we got better.”

Holy Trinity’s Katie Denning powers an attack past the Bloodhounds in the first set of the Crusaders three-set sweep Monday night. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

The Crusaders won 25-21, 25-17, 25-15, a night when they were the closers.
“For us, it’s early,” said Freesmeier, whose team is ranked No. 1 in Class 1A. “I know it’s a month in, but for us, it’s early.
“I thought we settled in, and started to do some good things. We’ve got a lot of senior leadership out there, but we’re young, too.”
Holy Trinity (4-3) struggled early with too much power, and the Bloodhounds (0-5) took advantage, building a 20-15 lead.
But the Crusaders went on an 8-0 run, then after Fort Madison got to within 23-21, closed the game with a kill by Claire Pothitakis and an ace from Maria Rauenbuehler.

Fort Madison Kailyn Guzman (23) goes up at the net and is challenged by HTC’s Claire Pothitakis (8) in the Crusaders’s first set 25-21 win Monday. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“We were playing well, and then we had about four hitting errors in a row,” Fort Madison coach Kent Bailey said. “That allowed them to get back with us, and then get ahead. I mean, they’re a good team. They know how to finish games, which they’ve proven.”
“We just had too many errors,” Freesmeier said. “We had 14, 15, 16 errors in Game 1.”
Holy Trinity built a 14-5 lead in Game 2, and had a chance to close out the game up 24-13. But Fort Madison scored four consecutive points and got some momentum back. But another Pothitakis kill ended the game.
The Crusaders controlled the third game. They scored nine consecutive points for a 19-5 lead, then led 21-9 before Fort Madison again rallied. The Bloodhounds got to within 23-15, but kills by Katie Denning and Pothitakis closed the match.
Brooke Mueller led Holy Trinity with six kills.
“Our kids battled tonight, which was good to see,” Bailey said. “We just now have to figure out how to get points.”
“Bottom line — Fort Madison is scrappy,” Freesmeier said. “They did a good job. Once we settled in, we got better.”

HTC’s Brooke Mueller puts a block on a Fort Madison attack Monday night in the 2nd set of the Crusaders 3-set sweep of the Hounds at the Hound Dome. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

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