LOOGOOTEE — Trinity Lutheran’s volleyball team showed why it deserves to be ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 1A Saturday in the Loogootee Regional.
The Cougars defeated No. 4 Loogootee 25-17, 26-24, 17-25, 25-19 in the semifinals, then eliminated No. 5 Springs Valley 25-21, 25-11, 25-20 for their second regional title in three years.
With the wins, the Cougars tied their school record for wins, 30, set two years ago, and set up a 1 p.m. match with Bloomfield Saturday in the Columbus East semistate.
Cougars coach Faith Wilder-Newland says it takes aggressive serving, good defense and a strong game at the net to advance in the tournament, and she felt her team excelled at all three areas Saturday.
“The big part of it, our serve receive held up. We passed on serve receive pretty well, and our hitting was really aggressive,” she said. “Our defense, too. I mean our defense was just crazy good, just digging everything. I’m just so proud of them. There was a body on the floor for every ball pretty much, and we just played with a lot of enthusiasm and mental toughness.”
Kamzi Gross topped the Cougars in digs against the Blackhawks with 14, Stella Kleffman had 11 and Laura Roeder had 9.
Roeder served three aces and Gross served 2 of the team’s 7. Kleffman, Ruthie Bingham and Gross all had two block assists.
Bailey Tabeling was the leader in attack kills with 14, and Carson Bowling, Bingham, and Kleffman combined for 21, and when you add Addie Darlage’s 37 assists you get numbers that added up to the Cougars’ 21st straight win.
The first set against Valley was tied at 8-8 before the Cougars went on a 5-0 run to lead the rest of the way. Gross had a kill to give her team the 13-8 lead, a kill by Bowling set the score 18-11, and Tabeling had a kill for set point.
Valley held a 5-3 lead early in the second set before Trinity went on a 7-1 rally to lead 10-6. The Blackhawks cut Trinity’s lead to 14-11 before the Cougars closed on an 11-0 run.
The third set was tied at 18-18 before Trinity stepped up its attacking game as Bingham had three kills late and Kleffman had a kill for match point.
“It feels amazing,” Tabeling said. “This team has put in the work all season. We’ve been putting in even more work lately for the tournament, but all-around we work hard, we play hard and I’m really excited to see where we can keep going.”
Both opponents put up strong blocking at the net and Trinity had to mix up its attacks by hitting cross-court and by doing some tipping, but Tabeling said her team was prepared to make adjustments.
“We worked on it all week for Loogootee, aiming for the serving corner. We knew their libero, who played left back, wasn’t going to be able to cover some of our tips so we figured once we swung a little bit we could mix in tips every now and again,” Tabeling said. “Our main goal was to come out swinging the entire time and I think we did a really good job of that, so I’m really proud of how we hit today.”
In the win over Loogootee, in the opening set the Cougars used an 8-0 run to turn a 6-3 deficit into an 11-6 lead and stayed ahead the rest of the set as Tabeling had kills on Trinity’s last three points.
The second set was tied 11 times, including at 24 all before the Cougars took advantage of attacking errors by the Lions for the last two points.
Loogootee opened a 13-7 lead in the third set and Trinity couldn’t get closer than 4 points the rest of the way.
Trinity led 14-7 in the fourth set before Loogootee cut the difference to 16-13. Then, Kleffman came up with a kill that gave Trinity the momentum it needed to pull out the win.
“I was so proud of our defense,” Wilder-Newland said. “No matter how hard they hit or where they tipped, it seemed like we had bodies going for the ball and sustained the rallies by getting the ball in the air and then hitting it back at them. That was so fun. It was kind of nerve-wracking but a lot of fun, too.”
Tabeling topped the team in kills with 21 and Bingham had 13, Gross topped the team in digs with 26 and Bingham had 22, Gross had two aces, and Darlage had 51 assists.
Wilder-Newland said she is looking forward to a good week of practice.
“We’re just going to take it one day at a time and one match at a time, one play at a time, which is what we said for this weekend,” she said. “You can’t look ahead, past anybody. One of the reasons they played so well is the seniors kept reminding the younger kids ‘hey, just play our game and just relax and just do what we do.’”
Tabeling said, “We’ve got to keep playing how we played all season, play our game, and not try to change anything since its tournament time. The way we came out and did it today I definitely think we can do it in semistate. We should be fine.”
Kouts and Lafayette Central Catholic will play in the northern semistate at Frankfort on Saturday.