Crusaders again in SEI Superconference final round

Crusaders sweep through field in first round at WMU


WINFIELD — Holy Trinity’s volleyball team has accomplished everything it wanted from this week to this point.
Now the Crusaders are where they want to be — in the final round of the SEI Superconference tournament.
Holy Trinity swept through the opening night of the tournament on Thursday, defeating Highland and Pekin before rallying past host Winfield-Mount Union to advance to Saturday’s eight-team final rounds at Southeastern Community College.
And the No. 12 (Class 1A) Crusaders are hoping to see some teams that they struggled with early in the season.
"There’s a lot of motivation going into Saturday,” outside hitter Mary Kate Bendlage said. “We have a lot of high hopes. We hope to see some teams we’ve lost to, because we have gotten a lot better.”
“Saturday,” coach Melissa Freesmeier said, “is going to be a big, big day.”
The Crusaders have won six matches this week, starting with three victories in their own tournament on Monday. They started Thursday by defeating Highland 21-9, 21-6, then beat Pekin 21-14, 21-8.
They would have to rally against Winfield-Mount Union, though. They lost the first set 21-16, then defeated the Wolves 21-14, 15-8 to finish the night undefeated.
“We got down in that first set,” Freesmeier said. “Three weeks ago we would have lost and went home. I’m just excited about where we’re going and how the kids have grown.”
The Crusaders played most of that final match without Brooke Mueller, who was injured earlier in the evening and tried to keep playing. She left the court after the first game, but Freesmeier was able to find help off the bench.
“I think tonight we showed we could handle adversity,” said Bendlage, who had 20 kills. “With Brooke being out, she’s a big part of the team. But we had a lot of people step up.”
“I just like the way everybody stepped up tonight,” Freesmeier said. “We’ve been talking all year about handling adversity, and we had a lot of it tonight. And our kids were very mature. They stayed settled. They got the job done.”
Presley Myers, a freshman middle hitter, led the Crusaders with 26 kills. Kayla Box had eight kills. Mueller had seven. Taegan Denning had four.
Sophomore Anna Bendlage had 58 assists in three matches as she continues to grow into her role as the Crusaders’ setter.
“Anna just keeps getting better and better,” Freesmeier said.
Mueller was 24-of-24 serving with six aces. Taegan Denning was 26-of-26 serving with six aces. Anna Bendlage was 18-of-18 with four aces.
Mary Kate Bendlage had 19 digs and three blocks. Teagan Snaadt had 15 digs. Anna Bendlage had 14 digs. Mueller had seven digs. Myers had three digs and four blocks.
“I’m just proud of the whole total team effort,” Freesmeier said.
It’s the longest winning streak of the season for the Crusaders.
“From the start, we’ve really turned a corner and showed what we can do,” Mary Kate Bendlage said. “We’re just going to keep continuing to get better.”

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