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Tigers knocked out by Holy Trinity

Sixth-ranked New London volleyball upended by No. 5 HTC in regional semifinal
Oct 27, 2017
Photo by: Andy Krutsinger Carson McSorley leaves her feet to serve the ball in Thursday night's loss to Holy Trinity.

By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News


NEW LONDON — The state tournament just wasn’t in the cards for the No. 6 New London volleyball team in 2017.

After a hot start against No. 5 Holy Trinity in Thursday night’s regional semifinal, the Tigers dropped the final three games to fall in four sets to their fierce rivals.

The Tigers dominated in the first set, taking it 25-16, but HTC stormed back to take the next three games 25-20, 25-19 and 25-18.

The New London’s front line came out firing in the first set. The Tigers jumped out to a 9-3 lead, led by four kills from Breanna Mettler.

The Crusaders started to scrap back, but the Crusaders struggled to get kill attempts past the Tiger block. New London’s lead was down to three points at 14-11, but Kaylor Schulte ended the HTC run with a kill to make it 15-11.

On the next point, Ashley Birdsell blocked a spike back onto the HTC side for a Tiger point. Savannah Sutherland scored the next point with a block of her own, and Mettler scored on a block two points later to stretch the lead to 18-12.

The Tigers had two more blocks that turned into points moments later when Birdsell and Mettler went back-to-back to make it 21-14. Mettler scored twice more before the set was over and the Tigers ran away with the first game 25-16.

The Crusaders battled back in the second set. The Tigers had a brief lead thanks to a Birdsell block, a Schulte kill and back-to-back points from Mettler, but HTC scored six of the next seven points to take a 9-5 lead.

The Tigers scrapped throughout the second set to stay within striking distance, and even cut the lead to one point after back-to-back kills from Schulte and Sutherland made it a one-point game at 19-18, but HTC closed the game out on a 6-2 run, took the set 25-20 and evened the series up at 1-1.

New London seemed to have their groove back in the third. The Tigers bursted out to a 9-2 lead on serving streaks from Carson McSorley and Sutherland, both of which scored one ace during their run. The Tigers looked to be in control with a 2-1 lead in site, but suddenly everything changed.

After Holy Trinity was able to end the Tiger run, Crusader Libero Elyse Pothitakis stepped up to serve and scored nine-straight points, peppering the Tiger back line with difficult serves right at the back line. In the blink of an eye, HTC was back on top with a 12-10 lead.

New London couldn’t shake off the Crusader run. A trio of points from Addie Pry helped the Tigers calm back down and the two teams traded points throughout the rest of the set but the Tigers couldn’t muster another run and found their backs against the wall with a 25-19 loss.

New London was able to grab a slim lead midway through the fourth set. The Tigers led 15-13 after back-to-back Birdsell kills and one form Mettler, but they only scored three more points for the rest of the night.

Despite a handful of scrappy plays from the Tiger defense, the floor began to tilt Holy Trinity’s way, as the Crusaders started to taste victory. The HTC front line found their legs and the Crusaders ended the game with three straight points to end New London’s promising season.

“We were flying high the first game,” Tiger head coach Maureen Heath said after the loss. “Holy Trinity is just a great team at coming back.”

Coach Heath pointed to the third game as the turning point, saying things could have turned out differently if the Tigers could have just stopped the run earlier.

“Third game, we got out ahead and then we let their one server just take charge and that was probably the killer of the entire match,” she said. “If we could have stayed ahead in that third match, it would have changed everything.”

The game was the last high school contest for a senior core that has won 134 matches over their four years. McSorley, Mettler, Sutherland, Birdsell, Camryn Blint and Jaden Streeter all saw their high school careers end on Thursday night.

“It’s going to be quite a chore without them, because they have just done wonderful things,” Heath said about her seniors. “They’re just great. We’re definitely going to have to rebuild, but when you’ve got a program, that’s what you do.”

HTC moved on to the regional finals to face an unranked Southeast Warren team. That game will be played in Ottumwa on Tuesday, Oct. 31, at 7 p.m.

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