BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
FORT MADISON – The calendar said September, but it felt like an October postseason match.
And that was the message Holy Trinity coach Melissa Freesmeier gave to her team after Tuesday’s loss to No. 1 (Class 1A) Notre Dame.
It’s still early.
“Exactly, exactly,” Freesmeier said after the No. 4 Crusaders fell, 25-19, 25-19, 25-23. “We’re only going to get better. So this was a great game for us.”
The Nikes, last season’s state champions, ended Holy Trinity’s 10-year run to the state tournament with a win in the regional semifinals, and it was something the Crusaders hadn’t forgotten.
But Notre Dame (19-6) controlled the first two games, then rallied late in Game 3 when the Crusaders (5-3) had a chance to stay alive.
“We kind of let up a little, didn’t stay aggressive at it,” Freesmeier said of the third game, when Holy Trinity led 23-19 before the Nikes scored the final six points. “But you know, we knew tonight was going to be tough. And win or lose, we were going to take something from this. And I think we did.”
The Crusaders had 10 days off after a sweep over Danville.
“It’s just the way it is, it’s what we do this time of the year,” Freesmeier said of the layoff that included time off for the usual break for the Tri-State Rodeo. “We have to be prepared. Every night in the (SEI Superconference) South (Division) is tough.”
Holy Trinity seemed to be in control in the third game behind Kassi and Natalie Randolph, who combined for eight kills.
“They were hitting around the blocks, using the blocks, doing great, great things,” Freesmeier said. “I thought they had a great third game.”
But the Nikes grabbed the game at the end behind two kills from Joslyn Bentz and a block by Abby Korschgen of a Kayla Box kill attempt on game point.
“Our kids had guts tonight,” Freesmeier said. “I’m proud of these kids for the way they kept fighting. They didn’t give up. It’s a good lesson for us, and I can’t wait to get back to practice tomorrow.
Natalie Randolph led the Crusaders with 15 kills while adding six digs and a 12-for-12 serving night with four aces. Kassi Randolph had 11 kills and 12 digs, and was 9-of-10 serving. Mary Kate Bendlage and Brooke Mueller each had three kills. Anna Sobczak had 17 digs, while Teagan Snaadt had six digs. Box and Kassi Randolph each had two blocks. Mueller was 14-of-14 serving with an ace. Laura Mehmert was 7-of-7 serving.