New London, IA- There’s always a certain excitement when it’s the beginning of the season, but for #8 New London their second game of the season will have the atmosphere of a playoff match as the Tigers take on #2 Holy Trinity Catholic at home tonight.
The two teams split their matchups last season with each team getting a sweep of the other; interestingly enough, the largest winning differential in any of the sets was just 8 points. On average the sets were determined by just five points. Of course, the competitive nature of the matches makes sense since the Crusaders earned a trip to the state tournament last season, while the Tigers came up just a set short.
Nevertheless, both teams dropped a couple talented seniors from last year’s team as New London loss Emma Nye, Eliana Manning, Natalie Burden, and Camryn Lair and Holy Trinity Catholic graduated Kayla Box, Alexa Dingman, Laura Mehmert, and Brooke Mueller. The Crusaders will also be missing Reagan Holvoet due to a preseason injury.
But the Crusaders truly have not missed a step with Natalie Randolph returning from her season-ending injury from her junior season as they find themselves touting a 7-3 record after going 3-3 at the Skip Anderson Tournament at Bondurant-Farrar and an undefeated run through the Wapello tournament.
Their 5-2 offense has allowed Randolph (69 assists) and Anna Bendlage (68 assists) to feed their attackers in Mary Kate Bendlage (50 kills) and Presley Myers (52 kills). Myers 0.404 kill efficiency and 16 blocks on the season are exciting advancements for the sophomore. Additionally, Adalyn Kruse has provided some youth to this experienced squad as she has tallied 10 aces in their first 10 games.
New London had more to replace, but also bring back talented seniors in Tysann Gipple (201 kills last season) and Sophie Malott (220 kills) to attack opposing defenses. Morgan Jones, a junior, provides a reliable source on defense and on the service line for the Tigers.
While the Crusaders are running high on a four-game win streak, the Tigers fell in their first match of the season to North Mahaska three sets to one. It was competitive throughout with New London winning set one 25-22, but the Warhawks glided past the Tigers 25-18, 25-20, and 25-17 in the final three sets.
However, it’s volleyball in Southeast Iowa, so the only certainty about the game tonight is there will be a competitiveness and intensity that seems more attune to a playoff game than a late August matchup.