BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The 5th-ranked Holy Trinity Catholic volleyball team put a pronounced finish on the annual HTC Volleyball Classic dispatching of runner-up Wapello 21-1 in the final game of the night.
The Crusaders rolled to a 5-0 record in the round robin event at Shottenkirk Gymnasium Monday night in a six-hour affair.
Teams from Wapello, Central Lee, Winfield-Mt. Union, Fort Madison High School, Danville and Burlington High School made up the eight-team field.
Wapello knocked off Winfield Mt. Union in two straight to get to the finals against HTC.
The Crusaders went 3-0 in pool play with wins over Burlington, Fort Madison and Winfield-Mt. Union. They rolled Central Lee 21-9, 21-15 to advance to the finals against the Arrows.
“I think our kids were ready to play tonight,” Head Coach Melissa Freesmeier said following the win.
“We just haven’t played much. We played one time last week and the Bondurant tournament two weeks ago. So the girls were hungry and kinda tired of sitting around.”
Holy Trinity downed Burlington in the first round by identical 21-14, 21-14 scores. In the second round they held another team to single digit points taking a 21-5, 21-13 win over Winfield-Mt. Union. The final round of pool play in the blue pool, saw the Crusaders go up against cross-town rival Fort Madison High School. The Lady Crusaders held Fort Madison to just four first game points 21-4, and then won handily 21-14 to advance to the championship bracket.
Central Lee went 2-1 in the Silver Pool playing with Wapello, Keokuk and Danville. The Hawks downed Danville 21-10, 21-14 and then needed a tie breaker game to get past Keokuk 21-16, 19-21, 16-14. Wapello then downed the Hawks 21-19, 21-16 to take the No. 1 seed from the Silver group into the championship.
The Hawks, as the No. 2 seed out of the Silver, found themselves up against the Crusaders.
Brooke Mueller took over serving early at a 1-1 tie and scored on 10 straight getting three kills from Mary Kate Bendlage to spot HTC a 10-1 lead over Central Lee. Bendlage would miss on an attack for the side out, but the Crusaders, as they did regularly throughout the night, kept any big runs at bay.
The Hawks never put together a string of more than two points at any point in either game. Holy Trinity would push the lead to as many as 12 before Central Lee’s Meghan Hopp would get a kill to make it 20-9. A service error would end the first game immediately after.
Central Lee tried to keep things closer in the second game, staying within a couple points until Holy Trinity took control at 11-10. The Crusaders would go on an 8-4 run highlighted by three kills from Kassi Randolph coming in from the HTC right side. Randolph would get another kill to make it 20-15 before the Crusaders wrapped up the match.
Makayla Morrison had 33 kills on the night. Meghan Hopp had 35 kills and 19 digs.
Wapello hung around for about one point in the championship match. The Crusaders opened up a 6-0 lead in the first game behind Mueller’s serving. At 12-6, Taegen Denning would almost match that scoring on five consecutive service points with the help of three combined kills from the Randolph sisters, and a Kayla Box shot.
Mueller would score on a kill to make it 20-9, and a Wapello service error ended the first game.
The Arrow’s only point in the second game came at 5-1 when Lyndsy Massner found an open center court. Mueller would serve the rest of the way out for the win including three aces. Natalie Randolph would record three kills in the stretch.
“I think we fought hard and we didn’t let the ball drop. The girls did the things I know we can do,” Freesmeier said. “We stayed focused all night and didn’t let teams take big runs at us and that’s key to our success. It may have looked lopsided – Wapello’s a good team, I think we just played better tonight.”
The Southeast Superconference tournament kicks off on Thursday with Holy Trinity in pool play. Holy Trinity enters the tournament as the No. 3 seed behind Class 1A top-ranked Burlington-Notre Dame and Class 3A 7th ranked West Burlington. The Crusaders will play in pool play at Wapello starting at 5 p.m. They will play all four teams in the pool and the top two finishers from each pool will advance to Saturday’s final at SCC.
Central Lee opens Thursday’s Southeast Superconference in the New London pool.
Freesmeier said the Crusaders are improving each time they take the floor.
“Each game I feel like we’re getting better and I think we’re going to continue to grow and get better. It’s exciting for us to go in as the 3rd seed and do what we need to do to get to Saturday,” she said.
Fort Madison finished the HTC Classic at 1-2, knocking off Burlington for the second time in one week. The Hounds lost to Winfield-Mt. Union and Holy Trinity in the blue pool.
Alana Simpson had 13 kills, and 21 digs. Anna Lynk had eight kills and served two aces for Fort Madison. Eve Ruble had six kills and served 3-3 with two blocks. Taylor Johnson contributed two kills and two blocks. Aija Jenkins had a kill and a block, while Madison Pirri had 24 digs and an ace. Hattie Schepfer had 15 digs.