Central Lee sets HTC back with another 5-set loss

Central Lee's Zoey Eschman (12) and Mya Merschman (8) try to put up a block on HTC's Claire Pothitakis in the opening set Tuesday night. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
PCC SPORTS

FORT MADISON – Central Lee’s volleyball team was one point away from a loss.
Instead, the Hawks roared to a comeback victory that was a perfect momentum builder for the postseason.
Central Lee’s 19-25, 23-25, 25-19, 27-25, 15-6 win over No. 6 (Class 1A) Holy Trinity on Tuesday night was a masterful rally from the brink of defeat.
It left coach Amy Cook searching for words to explain how the Hawks accomplished it.

Central Lee sophomore Makayla Morrison attacks over Holy Trinity’s Kayla Box (3) and Bailey Hellweg (24) in the first set Tuesday night. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“I mean … I don’t know,” she said, trying to find the right way to describe the surge.
The Hawks trailed 16-9 in the fourth game before scoring 10 of the next 11 points. Holy Trinity got the lead back to 23-22, and then 24-23 with a chance to serve out the match.
But Taylor Crabtree’s serve went into the net, and suddenly the Hawks had life. They scored the next two points for a 25-24 lead, then Kassi Randolph’s kill tied the game.
Central Lee’s Mya Merschman, though, completed the comeback with back-to-back kills to force a fifth game, a game in which the Hawks dominated.
“They were pumped after that fourth game,” Cook said.
So pumped, the Hawks had a goal — hold the Crusaders to single digits.
The fifth game wasn’t close. Central Lee scored the first five points on their way to an 11-3 margin. The final point came on a kill by Meghan Hope, touching off a wild celebration.
“Until Game 5, it was anybody’s ballgame,” Holy Trinity coach Melissa Freesmeier said. “Central Lee controlled Game 5, and we let them. And you can’t do that with good teams.
“They came out hot, and we didn’t stick the first few passes. We weren’t putting hands in their face.”
“As long as we could run a quick offense, that was going to be the key for us,” Cook said.

Sisters Natalie Randolph (11) and Kassi Randolph (2) get up in front of an attack at the left side by Central Lee’s Makayla Morrison. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

The Crusaders took the first two games, but it was clear this was going to be a long night. The Hawks battled back for the win in the third game, scoring the final four points, two coming on Hopp kills.
“They really got the middle of their offense going, and that kept our blockers on their toes,” Freesmeier said.
It was the third five-game loss for the Crusaders in the last two weeks, all in SEI Superconference South Division play.
“It’s a great comeback win for them, another disappointing loss for us,” Freesmeier said. “Welcome to the South (Division).”
“It was a lot of fun,” Cook said.

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