Crusaders fall to Stars in section final

From left, senior Christina Bruggman, sophomore Maria Kuntz, and senior Nico Schmidt all reach for the block against Southwest Christian’s Mackenzie Horckey. Below, senior Kristen Mielke spikes the ball past Horckey for the kill on Nov. 1.

From left, senior Christina Bruggman, sophomore Maria Kuntz, and senior Nico Schmidt all reach for the block against Southwest Christian’s Mackenzie Horckey.

In just three sets, the No. 2 Mayer Lutheran volleyball team’s hopes of a state tournament berth were dashed. Falling 3-0 to No. 1 Southwest Christian in the Section 4A final on Nov. 1, the Crusaders closed the 2012 season with a 24-8 record.

The Crusaders spent much of the match playing catch up, always a few points behind the Stars.

“The girls fought hard al night and did not quit,” said head coach Joelle Grimsley. “The night felt like we had an overall theme of being just a step behind the Stars.”

In the first set, which Southwest won 22-25, points were quick with few long rallies.

“Game one was an all out battle of quick side outs,” head coach Joelle Grimsley said. “We struggled a bit in areas and had to play from behind just a two- or three-point gap but always chasing them. In a close game one or two mistakes can cost a team.”

Mayer Lutheran just couldn’t get going in the second set. Grimsley said the team was out of rhythm and began to play tentatively, losing the set 16-25.

The Crusaders battled back at the beginning of the third set, but then the Stars took a 9-16 lead. Grimsley said she relied on the leadership of captains Ashlyn Hucky and Nico Schmidt to keep the team fighting.

“With no timeouts left we talked about continuing to play one point at a time and taking care of the ball,” she said. “We were able to put up a fight and started playing Crusader Volleyball … it was just too late.”

The Crusaders lost the third set 23-25, and the Stars were crowned Section 4A champions.

The team served 48-55 (87 percent) with four aces. Strong serving nights came off the hands off sophomore Maria Kuntz (6-6), senior Anna Ernst (15-16), Schmidt (8-9), junior Rachel Schmidt (6-7), and junior Lauren Schroeder (9-11).

Nico Schmidt led the Crusader offense with 16 kills, followed by Rachel Schmidt (11), senior Kristen Mielke (9), Hucky (2), Kuntz (1), and senior Tina Bruggman (1). Hucky also had 35 of the team’s 38 set assists.

While Mielke and Bruggman were each credited with a block, the Crusaders’ 26 digs were spread across the board. Nico Schmidt, Ernst, Rachel Schmidt, and Schroeder each logged four digs, while juniors Jessi Grimsley and Shelby Sicheneder each had three. Hucky had two digs.

“The team never quit and that is what we talk about,” Joelle Grimsley said. “It is hard for all the teams when the day and season [are] over. The team worked hard every day keeping their eye on the prize.”

“We built great relationships, had amazing memories and became better Christian leaders throughout this season – and that is what the Crusaders will remember.”

Look for a full season wrap up in the coming weeks.

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