BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WAYLAND – Volleyball is tough in southeast Iowa.
The Class 1A 3rd-ranked Holy Trinity Catholic Crusaders got a full dose of tough Thursday in Wayland falling to Class 1A No. 14 WACO in five sets 25-18, 22-25, 17-25, 25-23, 11-15.
The fifth set told the story in a raucous WACO gym.
With the score tied at 4, WACO would reel off three straight highlighted by kill from senior Morgan Graber, who stole the show in WACO’s third set win.
Sophomore Grace Coble would follow up with a kill to make it 7-4 WACO, but HTC freshman Mary Kate Bendlage would put up a block on Graber’s next attack from the right side that fell to the floor for a sideout.
Senior Crusader Claire Pothitakis would fire an ace on the next serve to make it 6-7, but WACO senior Lona Farrier would record a kill to go back up by two.
Bendlage would get a kill on the next point, but Bailey Hellweg would misfire after the sideout for a 9-7 WACO lead. The two teams would trade points until a Pothitakis attack went long for a 11-9 WACO lead forcing HTC coach Melissa Freesmeier to call a timeout.
On the next play HTC junior Kassi Randolph would push a shot over the WACO defense that landed in for a 10-11 score that was posted. But the ball was ruled to have went over the top of the right side antenna and the point was taken off and given to WACO.
Randolph questioned the call and was given a yellow card. Freesmeier, also challenged the call, tossed her clipboard and was given a red card awarding an additional point to WACO for a 13-9 lead.
Pothitakis would get a kill on the next point, but Graber slammed one home for a sideout. Pothitakis would punch back with another kill, but her last attack went long and gave WACO the match.
“I thought we let them get runs early, but we just kept at it,” Freesmeier said. “We had the guts to push it to game five after being behind. It sucks that somebody has to lose.”
Holy Trinity had control in the first set opening up leads as much as 10 as Graber couldn’t find a rhythm and was missing on attacks. Her attack on the final point was bumped back over by Randolph and landed behind the Warrior back defense for the set point.
But Graber got going in the second set with three kills in the first nine points to help WACO to an 11-3 start. HTC would answer with an 8-2 run behind a couple kills each from Bendlage and sophomore Brooke Mueller to cut into the lead 11-13. A Pothitakis kill to the back line made at 14-15, but then WACO would stretch a 9-5 run capped by a Farrier block at 24-19.
HTC would score the next three points to get within 22-24, but a kill from senior Ellie Miles wrapped up the set.
Graber would take over in the third set with nine kills and three blocks including the set winner.
“WACO is a good team. They’ve got some hitters, but we had an answer for them in the fourth set, I thought,” Freesmeier said.
HTC would trail again in the fourth by as much as six at 16-10. The Warriors ran into the yips midway through and several defensive errors and couple attacks went long as the Crusaders crept back in. With WACO up 21-19, Graber and Miles both missed attacks on back-to-back points and Brooke Mueller would throw an ace in to tie things at 21.
Randolph would get a kill to give HTC it’s first lead of the set. Pothitakis would get two kills after missing long to make it 24-23 and then Katie Denning scored down the right line to push it to the tiebreaker.
“We probably made too many mistakes and your gonna have that. But good teams prevail and we can’t take anything away from this club tonight,” Freesmeier said.
“The south is tough and any given night somebody can knock somebody off and tonight it wasn’t our night, you could say.”
The Crusaders fall to 17-6 on the year and 4-1 in conference play. WACO takes sole possession of first in the loop with a 5-0 mark and moves to 21-2 on the year overall.
West Burlington (5-2, 13-3) comes to Shottenkirk Gym on Tuesday, and the Crusaders then travel to Cardinal on Thursday.