HOLY TRINITY - Holy Trinity’s offense worked from the middle out in Tuesday’s three-set sweep of Mediapolis at Shottenkirk Gym.
And that’s exactly what the No. 3 (Class 1A) Crusaders want.
The 25-20, 25-22, 25-10 win was a clinic in the game plan of the Crusaders (10-3 overall, 3-0 SEI Superconference South Division), who built off the dominance in the middle from sophomore Presley Myers and freshman Adalyn Kruse.
“We’ve been really pushing that in practice, the connections with all of our setters and hitters,” said Myers, who had 11 kills and four blocks. “And I think it’s definitely helping. We’re getting that connection down. And we can only get better as the season goes along.”
Myers’ production, and the work from Kruse (seven kills, two blocks) wore down the Bullettes (5-4, 2-1) by the time the match got to the third set.
“Definitely getting our middles involved is something we want to work on,” said senior Natalie Randolph, who had eight kills from the outside. “Having our middles have a great presence is really going to take us far.”
It’s a blueprint that has always worked well for the Crusaders.
“We have to establish our middle game, so we can get the outsides open,” Holy Trinity coach Melissa Freesmeier said. “We have two solid middles, and we have four solid outsides. If we establish that middle early, we can do a lot of things.”
Myers and Kruse were especially dominant early in the second set. Myers had two kills and two blocks in the 5-1 start to the set, then Kruse had two kills and a point off a tip to fight off a rally from the Bullettes.
Kruse continued her impressive run to start her career.
“Oh my gosh, she’s on fire,” said Myers. “She’s so amazing. She’s this freshman coming in, and she’s doing a great job. For being so new at this, she’s getting so many reps and she’s doing amazing.
“We go way back. We’ve played together on travel teams, off and on. We have a good connection, and that helps us have a good relationship.”
It was their work that provided opportunities for Randolph and fellow senior Mary Kate Bendlage. Randolph had three kills in Holy Trinity’s late run in the first set, and Bendlage had three kills and a block in the final surge to end the second set.
“Us middles were running, faking it, and it throws the blockers off,” Myers said. “It really leaves our outsides open so they can do what they do best.”
“There were definitely times we had some ups and downs,” Randolph said. “But I think how we ended showed us how we are as a team, how far we’ve come. We had good energy out there.”
Randolph, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, hurt the same knee late in last Tuesday’s win over Notre Dame. But she was cleared to play earlier in the day, and she finished with a team-high 19 assists and 17 digs to go along with a 19-for-19 serving night with four aces.
Randolph has played all season with a brace on the knee.
“It slides sometimes, but it doesn’t really bother me,” she said. “I had so much stuff on it tonight. It was kind of crazy.”
Kruse added seven digs and was 12-of-13 serving with two aces. Bendlage had 10 kills, 14 digs and three blocks. Anna Bendlage had four kills, 12 assists, seven digs and was 11-of-11 serving. Teagan Snaadt had 17 digs and four assists. Taegan Denning had one kill, 11 digs, and was 13-of-13 serving.
The South Division grind continues for the Crusaders on Thursday, when they play at No. 13 (Class 2A) West Burlington.
“This conference is tough,” Randolph said. “It’s fun getting everyone’s best match every night. It’s fun to have competition.”
“Every day in practice, we know — we have another big game coming up, we have another big game,” Myers said. “No team ever gives us an easy game. So we know we have to be prepared.”
“The South is tough,” Freesmeier said. “But you like that. You don’t want easy teams in it — that’s not going to help in the postseason. I’m glad we’re in the South, glad we can play this competition.”