Central Lee battles to runner-up with wins over WACO and No. 6 New London
BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
WEST BURLINGTON — Twelve matches in eight days.
And a crown at the end.
From one Saturday to another, Holy Trinity’s volleyball team has faced all kinds of tests.
That education ended with the SEI Superconference Tournament championship.
The Crusaders, ranked third in Class 1A, defeated Central Lee 25-21, 25-22 in Saturday’s final at Southeastern Community College.
It’s a busy time for the Crusaders, who went 10-2 during this recent stretch. Nine of those matches were against Superconference teams.
“This conference is tough,” Holy Trinity coach Melissa Freesmeier said. “You can’t take a night off. I thought our kids bounced back. We just seemed to respond when we needed to, from different kids all over the court.”
It wasn’t an easy night for the Crusaders, who had to rally to defeat West Burlington 23-25, 25-20, 15-11 in the semifinals before holding off the Hawks, who went the distance in a quarterfinal win over WACO and a semifinal victory over No. 6 (Class 1A) New London.
“Our setters did a good job of finding the kids who needed the ball,” Freesmeier said. “Our defense was on point. I just think we did a lot of good things today.”
The Crusaders rallied in the first game, and with the score tied at 19, scored six of the final eight points for the win. Claire Pothitakis had two kills and Natalie Randolph had one in that stretch. Brooke Mueller’s tip on game point found an opening in the Hawks’ defense, and Holy Trinity had a 1-0 lead.
Central Lee was not going away. The Hawks led 19-18 in the second game before the Crusaders scored six consecutive points to get to match point. Pothitakis and Kassi Randolph each had two kills in that run, and Katie Denning had a block.
But the Hawks scored the next three points before Holy Trinity closed the match with a kill from Kassi Randolph.
“These kids want to get better every day, and tonight they did,” Freesmeier said.
Central Lee was tested right away in the 19-25, 25-21, 15-13 win over WACO. The Hawks were down 11-1 to start the match, forcing coach Amy Cook to burn two timeouts.
But the Hawks weren’t rattled, getting back to within 23-19 before the Warriors closed the game.
They found themselves in an 8-3 hole in the second game before rallying, and were down 9-4 in the third before coming back to win.
““I am proud of them that they did push back,” Cook said. “But it’s something we need to work on, because we seem to always be not comfortable in that first game, and then we had to play catch-up.”
The match against New London — a 23-25, 25-17, 15-7 win — was similar. The Hawks fell behind early, then had an answer.
“You’re only going to be better if you play good teams,” Cook said. “This is only going to make us better. You’ve got to beat the best to be the best. I want to play the hard teams.
“Of course, we’re bummed right now. But we’ll bounce back.”
On the night, Mya Merschman led HTC with 28 kills and 10 blocks. Abby Wellman had 26 kills and 57 digs. Macy Watkins had 93 assists in the finals.
For Holy Trinity, Randolph had 28 kills and 25 assists to lead the Crusaders. Pothitakis was 56-66 attacking with 20 kills. Bailey Hellweg had 24 assists and Marie Rauenbuehler had 28 digs in Saturday’s finals.