HTC rallies in tiebreaker to reach semis

HTC senior Anna Sobczak signs the semifinal bracket after the Crusaders advanced with a 5th-set tiebreaker win over Janesville Tuesday at the State Volleyball championships. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
PCC SPORTS

CEDAR RAPIDS — Holy Trinity had its 10-year state volleyball tournament streak snapped last season.

The Crusaders are back at Alliant Energy PowerHouse, and they decided to stay as long as they could Tuesday night.

Holy Trinity’s 23-25, 25-21, 25-22, 20-25, 15-8 win over Janesville in the Class 1A quarterfinals was all about the Crusaders’ endurance.

K. RANDOLPH

“We didn’t want to go home tonight,” senior Kassi Randolph said, and so they won’t, although it took the Crusaders almost two hours to stay alive in the tournament.

The Crusaders, the fourth seed, play top seed and SEI Superconference South Division rival Notre Dame at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Nikes eliminated Holy Trinity last season on the way to the state championship, and they’ve got two wins over the Crusaders this season.

HTC Head Coach Melissa Freesmeier gets in the win huddle after the Crusaders beat Janesville to advance to the Class 1A State volleyball semifinals Wednesday night against No. 1 Burlington Notre Dame. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“Losing to them two times, we have more motivation,” said sophomore Natalie Randolph, who had 11 kills. “And we’re ready for them.”

The Crusaders have been omnipresent at the state tournament, but so many of the current team have little or no experience playing here. And often, it showed.

FREESMEIER

“You forget they haven’t been here,” Holy Trinity coach Melissa Freesmeier said.

“I think they got a little bit of the nerves before settling in.”

“I think our whole team was nervous,” said Kayla Box, who saw her sister play here and was a reserve on the 2019 team for the Crusaders. “For a lot of us, it was a new environment.”

Janesville is another perennial state tournament qualifier — this was the Wildcats’ 12th consecutive appearance — and Freesmeier knew this wouldn’t be easy.

Holy Trinity’s Mary Kate Bendlage attacks in the fourth set of the Crusaders’ 5-set win over Janesville Tuesday in Cedar Rapids. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“They’re not going to give in,” she said. “They’ve been here, done that.

But when it was 7-7 in the fifth set, the match suddenly belonged to the Crusaders.

Kayla Box had a block, Kassi Randolph had a kill, and then Box had another block.

“When we needed it there, we got the job done,” Freesmeier said. “At the end of the day, we got the job done.”

“We really started to play our game,” said junior Brooke Mueller, who had 13 kills, three in the final 5-0 run that ended the match.

Senior Kassi Randolph gets a set assist while Kayla Box looks on in the third set of the Crusaders win Tuesday night in Cedar Rapids. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“We finally came together in that fifth game,” Natalie Randolph said.

It was all about endurance.

“I was really exhausted,” said Kassi Randolph, who had ice packs on her neck during timeouts late in the match. “But this means everything.”

“I think we have the drive, the stamina, to stay up with other teams,” Mueller said. “Even when we’re down and struggling, we’ll fight back.”

The Crusaders’ nerves showed early as Janesville won the first game. Holy Trinity came up with enough plays to win the next two games, then the Wildcats fought off a late run to win the fourth.

“We (settled in) at times. And then we didn’t at times,” Freesmeier said.

“I think we had some jitters in the opening game,” Kassi Randolph said. “After that, we were ready to play.

Now the Crusaders are comfortable, still alive, and have the chance to face a rival.

Not a bad opening act.

“We just like to give the fans what they want,” Freesmeier said.

KILLS Natalie Randolph 13, Brooke Mueller 13, Natalie Randolph 11, Mary Kate Bendlage 9, Kayla Box 5, Reagan Holvoet 1. ASSISTS Kassi Randolph 21, Natalie Randolph 14, Anna Sobczak 7, Mary Kate Bendlage 3, Brooke Mueller 2, Kayla Box 1. DIGS Anna Sobczak 31, Mary Kate Bendlage 18, Natalie Randolph 14, Kassi Randolph 13, Teagan Snaadt 10, Brooke Mueller 6, Kayla Box 4, Teagan Denning 3, Alexa Dingman 2, Reagan Holvoet 1. BLOCKS Kayla Box 3, Reagan Holvoet 1, Brooke Mueller 1.

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