No. 8 Crusaders to host No. 14 Nikes in regional semis

The No. 8 Crusaders flew to an 3-set win over Highland in Region 8 quarterfinals Wednesday night. HTC will host Burlington Notre Dame on Monday. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC


FORT MADISON – Get in, get out, advance.
Holy Trinity made it look easy in its Class 1A Region 8 volleyball quarterfinal on Wednesday night, taking a 25-15, 25-11, 25-4 win over Highland at Shottenkirk Gymnasium.
The Crusaders (26-9), ranked No. 8 in the final IGHSAU poll, will play No. 14 Notre Dame at home in Monday’s semifinal.
It was a textbook postseason win for Holy Trinity, which has made 10 consecutive state tournament appearances.

Holy Trinity’s Brooke Mueller (23), Bailey Hellweg (24), Kayla Box (3) and Natalie Randolph (11) celebrate a block toward the end of the first set Wednesday night in the Crusaders win over Highland. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“The kids just responded to what we’ve been doing this week.,” Crusaders coach Melissa Freesmeier said. “Took some great swings, didn’t let them get big runs. They just stayed steady, and that’s what we needed to do.”
The Crusaders were especially impressive to end the second game and start the third game. They scored the last 10 points of the second game, then 15 of the first 18 points of the third game.
“I thought that our hitters were well-rounded, all the way around. The defense, they’re just getting better and better again.”
Highland (7-17) never led in the match, but challenged the Crusaders at the beginning of the first and second games. But Holy Trinity pulled away in both games.

Freshman Natalie Randolph offers up an assist in the first set Wednesday night. The Crusaders advanced with a sweep of Highland and will take on Burlington Notre Dame Monday night in the Class 1A Region 8 semifinal. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“It was good just to see what they’re made of,” Freesmeier said. “Highland came in and gave us everything they had, and sometimes you can get sloppy. And we didn’t do that tonight. We stayed with the game plan, and that’s big for us right now.”
Freshman Natalie Randolph had a kill and three service aces in that stretch at the end of the second game, and senior Claire Pothitakis added three kills.
The Crusaders then closed the night with a dominating third game.
They were all business, which is what they have been all season.
“They go in and they play,” Freesmeier said. “Playing volleyball is fun for them, but they also want to stay focused and get the job done.”

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