Trinity starts strong but can’t close out Tecumseh in regional semifinal

LOOGOOTEE — Trinity Lutheran’s volleyball team started Saturday’s match against Tecumseh just the way head coach Faith Wilder-Newland was hoping for.

The Cougars used aggressive serving, good passing and strong hitting to top the Braves 25-12. The Cougars then moved a step closer to another regional title with a 25-23 victory in the second set.

Trinity took a 3-1 lead on an ace serve by Addison Darlage in the third set before the Braves rallied for 25-15, 25-17, 15-7 wins.

“At the very beginning, we really served tough and passed the ball sharply and hit some good shots,” Wilder-Newland said. “They also helped us out by making some hitting errors that they didn’t make later. We really handled the ball well early on and served them off the court, I thought, that first set.”

The only time the Cougars trailed in either of the first two sets was 1-0 in the first set. An ace by Drew Hubbard gave Trinity a 6-2 lead, and later, the Cougars reeled off eight straight points to lead 15-3, and set point came on an attack by Carson Bowling.

Darlage served the Cougars into a 6-0 lead in the second set before Tecumseh drew even at 11. A passing error by the Braves, followed by a kill by Bailey Tabeling put the momentum back in Trinity’s favor as the Cougars stayed in front the rest of the way.

Even though the Cougars won the second set, Wilder-Newland said she saw signs of Tecumseh raising its level of play.

“It started in the second set. We won that barely 25-23, so they really picked up their game and cut down on their errors, especially their hitting errors,” she said. “By the third set, they were really handling the ball well. They were really passing well. They have so many weapons, and they spread the net out, so our blockers had trouble getting there to try to block their hitters.

“As I told the kids, they’re ranked where they are for a reason. They’re an outstanding athletic team. They spread the ball around really well. They played great defense against us, too. We were hoping we would be able to find the court a few more times with our hits, but they were really getting a lot of balls at us.”

After Trinity’s fast start in the third set, the Cougars were only able to score back-to-back points three times the rest of the set. Tecumseh scored five straight points in the middle of the set to go up 15-6. The closest the Cougars could get after that was 23-15 before the Braves scored the final two points.

Tecumseh held an 8-6 lead in the fourth set before going on a 6-1 run to set the score at 14-7. Tecumseh’s set point came on a kill by Jenna Donohoo.

Trinity was only able to score back-to-back points one time in the fifth set to take a 4-3 lead. The set was tied 5-5 before the Braves scored five straight to lead 10-5. Tecumseh’s Brianna Max blocked Bowling for set match point.

Tabeling again topped the Cougars in kills with 23, Bowling had 12 and Ava Blomenberg seven. Bowling topped the Cougars in blocks with three solos and three assists, Laura Roeder had 12 digs, Darlage had nine and Tabeling seven and Darlage had 44 assists.

Tabeling was the only senior on the roster.

“Bailey is just one senior, but she plays like five,” Wilder-Newland said. “What she contributes to this team I’m not sure we can replace. I hope we can. Her personality, her leadership, she’s irreplaceable, so other people are just going to have to play roles that they are capable of playing, but nobody can be a BT. But every year is new, and we’ll see what the kids can do between now and then.”

Trinity finished with a record of 23-11, while Tecumseh was 29-4 going into Saturday night’s championship match against Springs Valley. The Braves beat Springs Valley and will play Indianapolis Lutheran in the semistate at either Columbus East or Jasper.