BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DONNELLSON – Holy Trinity has an Achilles heal when squaring off against Central Lee in October – Senior night.
For the fourth straight year, Central Lee has beaten then Crusaders in the two teams final meeting of the season, which has been a Senior Night at one or the other school.
Central Lee took three out of four from the Crusaders Tuesday night 25-20, 25-18, 13-25, 25-15, after honoring eight senior girls on the team.
The Hawks won a 5-set affair last year in October in HTC’s gym. In 2019, the Hawks took another 5-set affair from the Crusaders in Central Lee on Senior Night, and in 2018 the Lady Hawks won in 5-sets at HTC for the Crusaders Senior Night.
The win ends Central Lee’s regular season at 5-3 in the Southeast Iowa Superconference and 16-10 overall. The Lady Hawks tangle with 3A No. 9 West Burlington in Region 6 action Monday night in West Burlington at 7 p.m.
Holy Trinity sits at 4-3 in SEISC play, but still has about six matches to play before they open post-season action next Wednesday after getting in bye in Class 1A Region 7 post-season play. One of those final regular season matches will be with SEISC North’s Mediapolis. They still have the Mediapolis Tournament on Thursday and then a trip to Knoxville for a Saturday tournament to wrap up the regular season.
The loss Tuesday stings a bit more for the Crusaders this year because it saw senior Kassi Randolph sit out most of the final three sets with an ankle injury, just eight days before post season action starts.
Her status for Thursday is unknown.
Senior Macy Watkins served four straight points Tuesday night to start the match setting the tone for what would predominantly be a night of playing catch up for the Crusaders.
HTC wouldn’t get closer than two points in the first set. Randolph dumped a set over the net to cut the lead to 4-6, but Central Lee would put together a 10-6 run capped by a kill from outside hitter Makayla Morrison for a 16-10 lead. The Hawks would push that lead to eight at 21-13.
HTC would stage a rally and cut the lead to five at 24-19, but another Morrison kill from left front into the right corner ended the first set.
The Crusaders would jump out to an early 5-2 lead in the second set when Meghan Hopp’s push went wide. But Morrison would get a block and a side out. After a defensive error by HTC on the next point, then a Mary Kate Bendlage kill, Kassi and Natalie Randolph would both have attacks miss the mark to tie things up at 6 a piece.
The two would stay tied at 7s and 8s before Central Lee took the lead for good on a Macy Watkins attack. Hopp would score back to back to extend the lead to 11-8. A Hopp attack at 11-9 went long bringing HTC with one again. They would stay within one until another Morrison kill followed a Crusaders’ defensive error for a 17-14 Hawks lead.
A 9-3 Hawks run gave Central Lee a 7-point lead. The two would exchange sideouts before Hopp put the Hawks up 2 sets to 0 with a kill from the middle.
The Crusaders got back on track in the third set after a 5-5 tie. They pulled away with a 20-8 run highlighted by four Bendlage kills. Kayla Box and Brooke Mueller each had a couple kills from the middle and left outside spots to secure a fourth set.
Head Coach Amy Cook said the message between the third and fourth sets was to push back.
“What I think HTC does really well, is they push back hard and that gives them more fire when they do lose a set and we knew that was happening. We talked about pushing back even harder,” Cook said. “I think the girls were just emotionally in it more and that made a big difference.”
Morrison said they Hawks went back to what they were doing in the first set.
“Even though they took that third set, we wanted to win it in the fourth. We didn’t want a fifth set with them at all,” she said.
The move worked and Central Lee came out all over the Crusaders jumping out to a 12-2 lead that HTC couldn’t recover from. Hopp had six kills in the final match to give the Hawks the win.
Cook said the Hawks were focusing on keeping energy levels high and the girls responded.
“They all did. In general, we just have to have that energy and we focused on that. If you have that energy your heart rate will be up and you’ll be ready to move more,” she said. “We kind of fed off that a little last night, when we started slow, but when we ended with that win that was what we talked about it.
The Hawks swept West Hancock Monday night 25-17, 25-15, 25-11.
“We’ve talked all season about ending on a high note and we did end our regular season that way. That’s the best position we could’ve put ourselves in going to West Burlington next week. But we’ll have to play like this for sure up there,” Cook said.
Hopp said ending the season this way is how the Hawks want to go into the post-season.
“We started up and our team helped us stay up the whole time. I trusted in them the whole time and this is what gets us pumped up so we can go up there and beat (West Burlington),” she said.
Hopp led the Hawks with 23 kills, 26 digs, two blocks and four block assists. Morrison had 18 kills, 23 digs, and four block assists.
Macy Watkins had eight digs, four block assists and 46 assists. Alix Congdon had 16 digs.
Holy Trinity Head Coach Melissa Freesmeier said not having Kassi Randolph for close to three games made personnel on the floor different, but said errors, not Randolph’s absence, was the root of the problems.
“We just had a lot of errors and that’s what cost us that match,” Freesmeier said. “I won’t take anything away from Central Lee at all. We don’t have 27 errors and then service errors on top of that. We probably had 35 errors tonight and you can’t give that to good teams.
“We had some good moments, but unfortunately the bad outweighed the good tonight.”
Freesmeier said Holy Trinity always has a target on their back and they need to be ready to go every time the whistle blows.
“You gotta be ready to go and I told those kids to step up and we’ll see what happens,” she said. “We’re always going to get everybody’s best game and you gotta be ready for that when you walk onto the court. I didn’t feel like we did that early tonight.”