Crusaders move on to 1A title match unblemished

HTC girls rally late in third set for semifinal win over No. 2 Boyden-Hull

CORALVILLE — It will be the longest day.
“Oh my gosh,” Holy Trinity sophomore Presley Myers said. “All the feels.”
The third-seeded Crusaders will play for the Class 1A state volleyball championship after Wednesday’s 25-17, 25-17, 25-21 semifinal win over second seed Boyden-Hull, but they’ll be the last ones playing at Xtream Arena when they play Ankeny Christian at approximately 7 p.m.
Then again, it’s been the Holy Trinity Late Show all week, so what’s one more day of waiting?
All the feels, indeed.
“Anxious,” libero Teagan Snaadt said. “Excited.”
“It feels amazing,” senior hitter Natalie Randolph said. “We’ve been talking about getting to the state tournament all year. Now that we’re here, we want to win the championship.”
It’s been the routine all week for the Crusaders (33-10) — go to class, get out of school early, head to the arena, play the last match of the day.
The waiting is the hardest part.
“Not sure if there will be much class going on in our minds,” Randolph said, laughing.
The Crusaders have swept through the week on their side of the bracket, and while the score of this one looks like another bit of broom work, they needed a big rally to take the final set. They were down 20-15 before a roaring run that staggered, and finally eliminated, Boyden-Hull.
“It was definitely about staying calm,” said Randolph, who had a block and five kills during that run, including a kill to start it and another one on match point. “We didn’t want to get too frustrated. We just wanted to play our game.”
“It was just the confidence that we knew we could come back,” Snaadt said. “We know we can come back, no matter how many points we were down.”
“These kids are playing their best right now,” Holy Trinity coach Melissa Freesmeier said. “Even when we get down, I don’t count them out.
“Because we’re dangerous.”
The Crusaders are at this point because of their ability to control matches this postseason, to have opponents chasing points. They never trailed in the first set, scoring nine of the last 11 points. They opened the second set with a 6-1 run.
And when they trailed in the third set, they kept finding a way to chip at Boyden-Hull (23-12), with enough points here and there to not let the Comets get too comfortable.
“We just made some mistakes instead of taking it upon ourselves to make a move,” Freesmeier said. “But we just gutted it out.”
“When we got to those last few points, I knew we had the momentum,” Randolph said.
Holy Trinity’s defense has been smothering throughout the postseason, and they came up with big saves in this match.
Snaadt got a hand under a kill attempt in the first set, leading to a Randolph kill and a 21-15 lead. In the second set, a Taegan Denning lunge led to a Mary Kate Bendlage lunge that saved another point and led to an Adalyn Kruse block for a 12-4 lead.
Bendlage led the Crusaders with 21 digs. Snaadt and Randolph each had 15. The Crusaders also had nine blocks, including four from Myers and three from Kruse.
“We have so much effort on the court,” Randolph said. “When our blocks are in a great position, it’s easy for our defense to get reads.”
“It’s just knowing I can get to everything if I set my mind to it, and just hustle to everything,” Snaadt said.
Now the Crusaders get top-ranked Ankeny Christian (38-3) with a chance to win the program’s second state championship.
“I said after the regional final this never gets old,” said Freesmeier, making her 22nd appearance at state as a head coach. “The championship game, it’s just different. But, you know, I think that these kids, they'll be ready. I mean, they've got the skills, they've got the mindset. So we'll come in tomorrow and play and see what happens.”
“You know, we had a goal at the beginning of the season,” Myers said. “And it's crazy that we're getting this close to reaching our goal.”
“We’re ready to play,” Randolph said.
 The longest day awaits.
“All the feelings,” Snaadt said.
“It was a fast season, and we have one more game,” Freesmeier said. “And it’s the biggest game of the year.”
“We've been playing late at night this whole week,” Myers said. “And so I think we're really comfortable with that right now.
“And I think it's going to be a good, good day.”
Kills — Natalie Randolph 11, Mary Kate Bendlage 10, Presley Myers 10, Adalyn Kruse 4, Taegan Denning 3, Anna Bendlage 2.
Assists — Randolph 15, A.Bendlage 13, Teagan Snaadt 2, Kruse 2, Denning 2, MK Bendlage 1.
Digs — MK Bendlage 21, Randolph 15, Snaadt 15, Denning 6, Kruse 4, A.Bendlage 3, Myers 1.
Blocks — Myers 4, Kruse 3, Randolph 1, A.Bendlage 1.
Fort Madison, Holy Trinity Catholic, girls, volleyball, sports, Boyden-Hull, championship, semifinals, sweep, Pen City Current,


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