MUNCIE — The hopes of Trinity Lutheran’s volleyball team to bring home the school’s first state championship on Saturday ran into two big STOP signs.
The Cougars rallied to extend the first set against Lafayette Central Catholic only to fall 30-28.
Trinity didn’t let that loss lower its spirits by breaking a 13-13 tie in the second set to lead the rest of the way for a 25-18 win. The Cougars trailed 15-12 in the third set before going on a 7-0 run to take control and rolled to a 25-18 win.
“We were handling the ball,” head coach Faith Wilder-Newland listed as a reason for winning the second and third sets. “We handled it on serve-receive and played good defense, and our hitters were able to be successful finding places to score. But if we don’t pass the ball up there where we have more options it limits what you can do.”
Lafayette held a 24-19 lead in the first set before the Cougars pulled even at 24-all on a block by Ruthie Bingham and Bailey Tabeling.
Trinity finally gained its first lead of the match at 27-26 on a Lafayette passing error. Trinity again led 28-27 before the Knights scored the final three points to win.
The Cougars jumped on top 10-5 in the second set, forcing a timeout by Knights coach Brad McCarter, and his team responded with a 5-0 rally.
A kill by Tabeling, one of 15 she had during the match, put the Cougars in front to stay at 13-12. She also had a kill for set point.
The Knights held a 15-12 lead in the third set when Bingham came up with a kill that sparked the Cougars on the 7-0 run and a 19-15 lead. Trinity closed the set on a 5-0 run with Stella Kleffman getting a kill for set point.
The Cougars seemed to run out of gas in the final two sets as the Knights jumped on top 4-0 in the fourth set on the way to a 25-12 win, and the Lafayette team scored the first two points of the fifth set to lead all the way for a 15-7 victory.
Wilder-Newland said her team did not serve or attack well enough in the final two sets.
“I just think we did not handle the ball as well,” she said. “We just did not pass as well on serve-receive, and we didn’t serve tough enough to keep them out of what they wanted to do.”
Trinity managed back-to-back points only three times in the fourth set and trailed 16-9 before the Knights closed with two 4-point runs.
The Knights opened the fifth set on a pair of aces by Grace Roach and were in front to stay on the way to their third state title, and first since 2017.
Freshmen Carson Bowling, Laura Roeder and Madison Keith performed in the regular rotation throughout the season for Trinity.
A year ago they were teammates at Immanuel Lutheran and helped the team place runner-up at state, and two years ago they helped the Warriors win the Lutheran Schools state championship. Those three, and teammate Addison Darlage, were on the Trinity club team last year.
Bowling, who had 9 kills Saturday said, “I’m really going to miss our seniors. I think we played the best we could this year. We just came out a little bit short. It’s a really big deal that we made it here, and I think the seniors were a really big part and they were really good leaders and led us on.
“I just enjoy the sport, and I enjoyed all my teammates being supportive. It’s just a fun sport. They (the Knights) had some good hitters.”
Kassidy Boener topped the Knights (27-9) with 20 kills, and Caitlyn Dineen had 15 kills.
Roeder is a back row specialist and had 9 digs Saturday.
She began playing club ball in fourth grade in Columbus where Trinity assistant coach Gregg Greathouse was her coach.
“My job was to get digs and serve-receive,” she said. “I like when people hit and you have a really good passer and get a really good dig, or when we have a rally and everyone goes crazy.
“I enjoyed today. I was more nervous at the regional (Loogootee) than I was for this. It was fun. The fans here were really loud.”
Keith just played front row and had 11 attacks against the Knights.
“My job was just to get up there and get some touches on some balls to help our back row and try to hit the ball down,” Keith said. “We put a lot of work into this and it was just crazy to get here from such a small school, and play in such a big arena and play in front of lots of people was just crazy. It’s a lot of teamwork. I love playing volleyball.”
The Cougars tied the school record with 30 wins (30-5) and won 21 in a row prior to Saturday’s match.
Wilder-Newland said the girls have a lot to be proud of.
“It’s pretty impressive to get this far,” she said. “It’s always disappointing to lose, but I could not be more proud of how hard they worked.”
Bingham had 17 kills, Kleffman had 11, and Darlage had 49 assists on Trinity’s 55 kills.
Kamzi Gross topped the Cougars in digs with 26 and Kleffman had 24.
Tabeling, Bowling, Roeder and Keith all play basketball and they will begin preparing today for the season-opener at home Nov. 16 against Brownstown Central.