Cougars secure 10th straight volleyball sectional title on Saturday; Face Loogootee at 10 a.m in regionals

MEDORA — Winning a sectional tournament in volleyball is exciting, but bringing home that championship trophy as a senior is special.

Senior members of the Trinity Lutheran volleyball team know the feeling very well after they helped the Cougars defeat Rising Sun 25-12, 25-7, 25-18 at Medora on Saturday night.

Kiley Zabel, Drew Hubbard and Laina Klinge said they dressed for sectional all four years they played at Trinity.

“This one definitely felt a lot different because it’s my last year, and it’s the most fun,” Hubbard said after helping the school win its 10th straight volleyball sectional. “I had a great time, I love my team and I’m glad we could do it all again this year.”

The Cougars advanced to the championship match by defeating New Washington 25-8, 25-10, 25-8 in the semifinals on Saturday morning, and Rising Sun advanced with a 25-11, 25-9, 25-20 win over Medora in the other semi-final.

“That was a pretty strong serving effort,” head coach Janet VanLiew said. “We were hitting the zones and making the kids move, not only aggressively but also with pretty smart placement. Our servers did a really nice job.”

The Cougars served 39 aces against New Washington and Rising Sun with Laura Roeder 40-40-10 Addison Darlage 25-26-12 and Madison Keith 29-31-11 for the day.

VanLiew said another key was the play at the net.

“That goes back to passing, and we were pretty with our serve receive and our free ball passing, and that makes it real easy for Addie (Darlage) to choose whatever hitter, and she does a nice job of knowing who’s open, and they did a nice job putting the ball away,” she said.

The Cougars had 72 kills in the New Washington and Rising Sun matches with Carson Bowling getting 23, Keith getting 18 and Ava Blomenberg getting 13.

“We had awesome play today,” Hubbard said. “We were consistent, we were smart with our shots and our serves were aggressive. Everything was clean. It just felt like we were in a good flow together as a team.”

Zabel described the sectional as a great feeling.

“It feels like we’ve come a long way. I think when the sectional title is on the line, obviously, you play harder and you want it more, so we were really pushing it, giving it our all,” she said.

She enjoyed the fan support the Cougars received.

“We have a great group of fans,” she said. “I enjoy the team atmosphere. I’ve played volleyball for a long, long time. It’s just a lot of fun for me. I’m a DS (defensive specialist), so I just play back row for three rotations and serve.”

Going into regional, she said, “We need to talk a lot in the regional. We need to keep our energy up and just give it our all. We can’t let up. There are going to be some great teams there, so we’ll just have to push really hard and fight for it.”

Klinge said it was really nice to win a sectional her senior year.

“We’ve won all four years, but this year, it’s extra special,” she said. “We have a really good group of girls. We’re all really close this year. We just had more drive to win the sectional because this was the championship game. We had played both teams before, so we had an idea going into it.”

She enjoys playing in the front row.

“I play on the right side, and I like to block and hit. I’m looking forward to our team playing hard at the regional, giving it the best we’ve got. The weeks of practicing have always been really fun,” she said.

The Cougars (18-15) will play Loogootee at 10 a.m. Saturday in the first match in the Loogootee Regional.

Tecumseh will play Lanesville in the second match on Saturday, and the winners will advance to the championship at 7 p.m.

“I would say this is definitely the best we have played for a whole match,” VanLiew said. “We’ve had some spurts, but this is by far the best match that we’ve played.”

The Cougars were hitting on all cylinders from the start against the Shiners.

A block by Bowling gave Trinity a 2-1 lead, an ace by Darlage put her team on top 9-4, an ace by Keith followed by a kill from Bowling set the score at 14-7 and kills by Blomenberg and Keith ended the first set.

Trinity was leading 5-2 in the second set when Bowling served four straight aces to make it a 9-2 score. Darlage had three straight aces later in the set, Blomenberg and Bowling had a block for the 24th point and Bowling had a kill for set point.

Another kill by Bowling gave Trinity a 4-1 lead in the third set.

Rising Sun did not score three straight points in either of the first two sets, but they scored three in a row in the third set to cut the Cougars’ lead to 9-7. A kill by Keith gave the Cougars the momentum they needed.

Trinity was leading 10-8 when they scored five straight points with back-to-back aces by Keith, setting the score at 15-8, and the closest the Shiners could get after that was 16-12.

VanLiew said the Cougars also played well in defeating New Washington.

“Both are good teams. We just kind of took (New Washington) out of their game with our serve. Rising Sun is a very good team. Our serving just took them out of their game,” she said.

VanLiew is looking forward to the regional matchup.

“We’ve still got to keep working on our blocking and our serve receive,” she said. “When we pass well, you can see how effective our offense can be, so we’ve got to make sure we get those passes where they need to be.”

Medora Sectional

Trinity statistics are for New Washington and the Rising Sun matches.

Attacks: Carson Bowling 35-42-20, Madison Keith 31-36-18, Ava Blomenberg 31-34-13, Drew Hubbard 24-25-4

Team 167-185-72

Serving: Laura Roeder 40440-10, Addie Darlage 25-26-12, Keith 29-31-11

Team 131-145-39

Assists: Darlage 129

Blocks: Carson Bowling 4, Ava Blomenberg 5

Digs: Roeder 33, Sammie Brown 18, Kiley Zabel 15