BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
BURLINGTON — Holy Trinity’s volleyball team was 24 hours better.
At this point in the season, it’s what coach Melissa Freesmeier wants.
The top-ranked (Class 1A) Crusaders were pressed by Notre Dame, but found the answers in a 25-21, 26-24, 25-18 win on Tuesday night.
Holy Trinity swept Fort Madison on Monday night having not played since August 29, struggling early before taking control later.
This was a different kind of test, but one in which the Crusaders seemed to thrive.
“I think we just didn’t make as many errors (as in Monday’s win),” Freesmeier said. “We just knew we needed to continue to work with our offense. I think just some things clicked tonight.”
Notre Dame (0-1) pressured the Crusaders throughout the match. Katy Stephens had 13 kills and Gabby Deery had 10 kills.
“We knew those two are good hitters,” Freesmeier said.
But the Crusaders had a balanced attack, and it showed.
Still, there was a need for Freesmeier to send a message early, considering the slow start the Crusaders had in Monday’s match.
The Nikes scored the first three points, and that led to a timeout.
“Last night, it got ugly early,” Freesmeier said. “I didn’t like some of the things we were doing. I knew if we started out slow, that timeout was going to come fast. I wasn’t sure it was going to be 3-0. Sometimes I do things, and my assistants look at me like I’m crazy.”
But it worked.
The Crusaders scored six consecutive points midway through the game — three coming on kills from Claire Pothitakis — and took a 16-13 lead, but Notre Dame came back for a 19-18 lead, which led to another Freesmeier timeout.
Mary Kate Bendlage’s kill out of the timeout tied the match, then Kassi Randolph added back-to-back kills moments later for a 21-20 lead. The Nikes tied the game on a Deery kill, then the Crusaders closed it out by scoring four of the final five points.
Notre Dame seemed to have Game 2 under control, especially when Deery had two kills and two blocks in a 4-0 run that gave the Nikes game point. But Molly Johnson’s serve was long, and the Crusaders were still alive.
Randolph had a kill to cut the lead to 24-23. Deery’s kill attempt was long, and the game was tied. A Pothitakis kill gave the Crusaders match point, then Brooke Mueller’s serve tipped off the net and fell to the court for the game winner.
“They just dug deep,” Freesmeier said. “It’s hard to come in here, get down by that many points, and come back and win.”
Notre Dame led 15-14 in the third game before Holy Trinity rallied. The Crusaders took a 20-18 lead, then finished with the final five points. Mueller had three kills in that stretch, and then Bailey Hellweg finished the win with an ace.
Pothitakis had 10 kills. Mueller had eight, and Randolph had five.
It’s a busy week for the Crusaders (5-3), who play host to Van Buren on Thursday.
“As I told them in the locker room, we’re only going to get better,” Freesmeier said. “Because that’s what we do.”