Hannah Sabotin has played a lot of high-level volleyball in her career.
The lone senior for the Class A top-ranked Trinity Lutheran Cougars has made plenty of national events and played in gyms packed full of people.
Yet after she and the Cougars dismantled the eighth-ranked Bloomfield Cardinals in straight sets (25-16, 25-15, 25-11), she said the feeling of finally making state just doesn’t compare to anything else.
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“It’s one of the best feelings that I’ve ever experienced," she said. "I’ve made it to national tournaments before, but this is so much better than that. All the energy and everything.”
Sabotin had a team-high 15 kills to pace the Cougars by Bloomfield and into their second ever volleyball state title appearance.
The Cougars last made the trip to Muncie in 2011, finishing as the Class A runners-up to Wes-Del.
Now, the Cougars have visions of a state championship in mind and after running through most of their competition so far this postseason, they’ve got a good chance to win the school’s first ever state championship.
Bloomfield struck first in each set, raising the hopes of the players and fans that made the drive from Greene County.
There was a bit of a feeling out segment to the first set before the Cougars established themselves and really let it rip.
They sucked the energy out of half of the gym by the midway point of the second set and, slowly, smiles began to creep across the faces of the Trinity players knowing a semistate title was within their grasp.
Cougar coach Faith Wilder-Newland said nerves got to them in the first set, allowing the Cardinals to take control early.
Once they found their groove — especially with their serve — they gained the needed confidence to shift their play into cruise control.
“We broke it open with our serve and that kind of made them more confident and that’s what we normally do," Wilder-Newland said. "That really helped calm us down. In the second set, we were still feeling them out, but the confidence was there and they just knew they were prepared to defend against Bloomfield.”
After pulling away late to win the first two sets, the Cougars really dominated the third, and final, set for the match win.
In fact, they were so far ahead, Wilder-Newland was able to clear her bench and allow her reserves to serve out the match.
That moment in particular made the victory a little more special.
"When we get contributions from all of the kids, from the freshman to the seniors, and all of the support from each other; it’s really magical,” she said.
Despite the shaky start, at least by Trinity’s standards this season, Sabotin said the group never lost focus and was able to come together.
She confirmed her and her teammates started cracking smiles as they inched closer to securing their spot at state, and they were simply having fun towards the end.
“The team just all came together," she said. "The first set, there were some nerves of course, but it’s semistate and that’s going to happen. Once that second set started, all the pieces started falling into place and we were having so much fun.”
Much like they’ve been this whole season, the Cougars were multi-faceted with their attack. Though they went to Sabotin early, and she was contained early, the Cougars were able to keep plugging along thanks to juniors Syndey Jaynes and Kennedy Hoffman as well as freshman Bailey Tabeling.
All three played crucial roles in the attack for Trinity and Wilder-Newland thought they all stepped up big when needed.
Hoffman added nine kills and four blocks while Jaynes chipped in six kills. Tabeling, who won several points to close out the match, ended it with seven kills and two blocks.
Trinity will now turn their attention to Cowan for Saturday’s state championship match at 11 a.m.
It’s the fourth trip to state for Cowan, winning once in 2012 and finishing runners-up in 1999 and 2000.
The Cougars took some time to enjoy the victory, but went right back to work once Monday hit.
“Once Monday hit and we started going back to practice, it’s going to be focusing on state and that next step,” Sabotin said.
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Trinity Lutheran’s 2019 Semistate Championship Roster
Senior: Hannah Sabotin.
Juniors: Bailey Reynolds, Kennedy Hoffman, Elly Carter, Sydney Jaynes.
Sophomores: Kayla Goecker, Estella Kleffman, Kamzi Gross, Paige Lawrence, Ruthie Bingham.
Freshman: Bailey Tabeling.