CORALVILLE — Holy Trinity spent 70 minutes of the Class 1A state volleyball championship looking for holes in Ankeny Christian’s defense.
The search was rarely productive, often futile.
The October postseason run for the Crusaders was a brilliant dissection of opposing defenses, but in the biggest match on the biggest stage, the cuts were few.
Ankeny Christian Academy swept the Crusaders 25-21, 25-18, 25-17 to secure its second consecutive state title on Thursday night at Xtream Arena.
The fact that the Eagles, top ranked and the top seed of this tournament, had been to this spot last season and won the title, certainly mattered and was obvious.
“We haven’t been in this situation and they have,” said Holy Trinity senior Mary Kate Bendlage, who had a team-high 11 kills. “Kudos to them and their season — they really played hard.”
The Eagles (39-3) had control from beginning to end. They led almost all of the first and third sets — there were only three lead changes in the match.
Holy Trinity (33-11) had just 29 kills, never getting Ankeny Christian out of an offensive rhythm that produced 45 kills, including a match-high 16 by Macey Nehring.
“They had a great block, a great defense, and they didn’t let the ball die,” Bendlage said. “And that’s frustrating as a hitter.”
The Eagles also had 43 assists, 35 coming from Katie Quick, who also contributed seven kills.
“They ran that offense really well,” Holy Trinity coach Melissa Freesmeier said. “They moved that ball around. That Quick girl is really good. That’s what beat us tonight — they moved the ball around so well.”
“They can hit crazy shots, and they’re a good offensive team,” said libero Teagan Snaadt, who had 18 digs and joined Bendlage on the all-tournament team. “They’re strong hitters, they’re tall hitters. It makes it hard for our blocks to get over to every hitter when they’re so well-rounded on offense.”
Ankeny Christian set early tones in each of the three sets. The Eagles were up 7-4 in the first set, 8-4 in the second set, and 13-9 in the third. The Crusaders, who had opponents chasing them throughout the postseason, had the roles reversed.
Freesmeier used her full allotment of timeouts in each set, trying to come up with any sort of formula that could solve whatever Ankeny Christian was doing.
“We couldn’t (get the Eagles out of their offense),” Freesmeier said. “And that was tough. We tried, we kept hitting, but they made some fantastic digs.
“At the end of the day, they were just better than us tonight.”
Ankeny Christian also had devastating runs at the end of the second and third sets. With the score tied at 15 in the second set, the Eagles scored eight of the next nine points. And in the third set, up 14-11, they scored eight consecutive points.
“It hurts,” Snaadt said. “But we worked hard all year, and we can’t dwell on what we didn’t do great today, but what we did (all season).”
It was an emotional end for the run of the Crusaders’ seniors — Bendlage, Natalie Randolph, Taegan Denning, Jenna Hellman and Raegan Holvoet.
“Everyone left it all on the floor,” Bendlage said, wiping away tears. “I couldn’t be more proud of every single one of the players out there.
“I wouldn’t trade them for anyone.”
“Our kids never quit, especially our seniors,” Freesmeier said. “It’s sad for them. They left it all on the court.
“Oh, they’re going to be missed. MK, Natalie, Taegan, Raegan, Jenna — they put a lot of work in and they’re leaders on and off the court. They’re who you want to be.”
HOLY TRINITY STATISTICS
Kills — Mary Kate Bendlage 11, Natalie Randolph 6, Presley Myers 6, Adalyn Kruse 4, Taegan Denning 2.
Assists — Anna Bendlage 12, Randolph 10, Teagan Snaadt 5, Kruse 1, Denning 1.
Digs — Snaadt 18, Randolph 17, MK Bendlage 11, A.Bendlage 9, Denning 7, Myers 4.
Blocks — A.Bendlage 2, Kruse 1 ½, Myers 1 ½, Randolph 1.