Trinity Lutheran’s volleyball team got off to a sluggish start against the host school in the West Washington Class A sectional championship match Saturday night.
But once the Cougars put things together, there was no denying them of their fifth straight sectional title.
“They gave us a really good go at it, especially the first set. I think we weren’t quite ready mentally to face that. We just had to relax and play,” Cougars coach Faith Wilder-Newland said after her team topped the Senators 25-19, 25-11, 25-10.
Trinity advanced to the finals by defeating Shawe Memorial 25-6, 25-7, 25-11, and West Washington topped Medora 25-10, 25-8, 25-13 in the other semifinals match earlier Saturday.
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“I think our blocking and hitting is just one of our clear strengths,” Wilder-Newland said. “The ball control, the passing and defense, those are the things that we have to keep improving on, and I thought overall we did pretty well.
“They tipped a lot more than I thought they would, so we just had to react to that, but I thought our hitting and blocking was very good.”
She said she was happy to see the Senators block some attacks by the Cougars because that is the type of defense the Cougars will face Saturday in the Loogootee Regional.
The Cougars were unable to take command of the first set until late, as the score was tied six times, the last at 11 before Hannah Sabotin had a pair of attacks around a kill by Abby Schult that put the Cougars on top 14-11, and Trinity was in front to stay.
Trinity held a 19-16 lead when it scored five straight points with an ace serve by Paige Lawrence giving the Cougars a 24-16 lead. After the Senators rallied for three straight points, Schult had a kill for set point.
“We were trying too hard at the beginning and made a couple hitting errors that we don’t normally make, so we had to relax and kind of let the game happen,” Wilder-Newland said.
The Cougars built early leads in the second and third sets to win much easier.
In the second set, Savannah Harweger opened the scoring with an ace, Schult had a kill and a block for points, and Sabotin’s second kill of the set quickly set the score at 5-0.
Another block by Sabotin boosted the Cougars’ lead to 11-3, a kill by Sidney Jaynes put Trinity up 20-7, and Sabotin’s fifth kill of the set ended the scoring.
The third set was tied 1 when Ruthie Bingham served up 10 straight points with her ace giving Trinity a 11-1 lead. Schult had back-to-back kills to put Trinity on top 13-2, Bailey Reynolds had back-to-back aces to give Trinity a 16-3 lead before Schult had a kill for set point.
Schult said scoring the final point was exciting.
“Because this is my last year, but any point for the team is a point to win,” she said. “We played a really strong net game tonight. Our offense was pretty solid in all three sets. Coming into it, we weren’t sure what to expect because hadn’t played them this season.”
Schult, who was 13-for-14 with 10 kills, has been a part of four straight sectional titles and said this one was especially important to her since this is her senior year.
“It’s pretty exciting to beat them on their floor, especially since they had a pretty big crowd, but we brought a lot of fans, too, and we brought a lot of energy,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Trinity (27-9) will face Tecumseh, winner of the Northeast Dubois Sectional, in the second match at Loogootee on Saturday after Barr-Reeve and Rock Creek Academy play in the first match at 10 a.m.
“We’re going to have to bring our A game,” Schult said.
Sabotin had 14 kills against the Senators, while Kennedy Hoffman was 16-for-17 (five kills) in attacks. Schult led the team in blocks with four, while Reynolds had 31 assists.
The Cougars had an easy time against Shawe, as they dominated from the start in each set. Schult topped the Cougars in kills with 10 and in blocks with three, Kamzi Gross served eight aces and had 13 digs and Reynolds had 32 assists.
Medora was unable to generate enough offense against the Senators to stay close in any of the sets. The Hornets finished 8-19.
Wilder-Newland said her team needs to play more consistent in the regional.
“We have moments where we’re at the top of our game,” she said. “We’ve got to keep working on getting rid of the unforced errors, which I thought we did with serving. We did that really well. We only had two errors on the whole night (80 for 82), which is good. When you serve aggressive, it makes a huge difference, so we were really pleased with that.
“Now, it’s defensively being ready for off-speed and different shots in the corners. We’ll get there. We’re going to have a good week of practice. I’m excited about it.”