WEST BURLINGTON — There were six West Burlington volleyball players on the court.
To Holy Trinity at times during the SEI Superconference championship match, it seemed like there were a lot more than that.
The Falcons’ defense kept the No. 2 (Class 1A ) Crusaders from using their power on the way to a 25-19, 25-18 win on Saturday at Loren Walker Arena.
“I really think that West Burlington dug up a lot of balls,” Holy Trinity coach Melissa Freesmeier said. “They played better than we did defensively.”
The Falcons, ranked No. 15 in Class 2A, avenged a five-set loss to the Crusaders earlier this season with a stifling defense that covered virtually everything Holy Trinity tried.
A 5-0 start to the first set created a tone for the match for the Falcons. Holy Trinity’s sole lead in the match was at 2-0 in the second set, but although the Crusaders kept the set close, a 5-point run from the Falcons when they were up 15-14 helped them control the final points.
“We can’t hang our heads — we had good moments,” Freesmeier said. “They just kept us on our toes all night.”
The Falcons were especially difficult up front behind senior middle hitter Taryn Havener.
“We errored the ball a little too much, especially in that first set,” Freesmeier said. “They put us in tough situations. They kept the pressure on us all night. They put some blocks on (middle hitter) Presley (Myers), and Presley hasn’t been blocked much all year. That was frustrating for her.”
It was expected that these two teams would meet in the final — Holy Trinity was the top seed, while the Falcons were seeded second. It had the feeling of a postseason matchup, and Freesmeier said the lessons from the loss will help.
“We got the first one, they got this one,” Freesmeier said. “We can take things and learn from it.”
The Crusaders hadn’t lost a set in the tournament coming into the championship. They swept all three matches in Thursday’s pool play, then defeated seventh seed Mediapolis 25-23, 25-20 in the quarterfinals and 12th seed Central Lee 25-11, 25-21 in the semifinals.
“Mediapolis is better than they were seeded,” Freesmeier said. “Central Lee is coming on strong right now. It was a good night. We wanted to get to the championship match, and of course, we wanted to win the championship. But you can’t take anything away from West Burlington.”
Central Lee finished its strong showing in the tournament with a fourth-place finish. The Hawks — who survived a difficult pool, going 3-1 in a group that included fourth seed Wapello and fifth seed WACO – defeated Van Buren County 25-23, 26-24 in the quarterfinals before falling to the Crusaders. They then took Wapello to three sets in the third-place match before losing 20-25, 27-25, 15-11.
“This was huge,” Central Lee coach Amy Cook said. “We’re finally recognizing to just have fun, and to communicate is the key. And then everything finally falls into place. We’re realizing that now.
“I’m super proud of them. I am proud of them for just getting here. We proved to ourselves that we could do this.”
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