CEDAR RAPIDS – Just when it appeared Starmont might make some headway, Emily Box was always there to swat it away.
The Fort Madison Holy Trinity junior middle hitter added 25 kills to her state-leading total as the fifth-ranked Crusaders swept No. 4 Starmont, 25-17, 25-21, 25-17, in a Class 1A volleyball state quarterfinal Wednesday at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“This year, I just really worked on getting around the block and just focused on keeping the ball in play instead of trying to put that dent in the floor,” Box said.
Box now has 648 kills this season and 1,287 in her career. She’ll get the opportunity to post more numbers when the Crusaders face two-time defending 1A state champion Janesville (35-7) in a 1A semifinal Thursday at 6 p.m.
Fort Madison Holy Trinity has been eliminated by Janesville in each of the last two tournaments.
“It’s just going to take us playing our best game,” said junior middle hitter Eryn Anderson, who posted 11 kills and four aces. “Playing how we know we can, having fun and leaving it all out on the floor.”
Junior libero Mya Lawlor led Fort Madison Holy Trinity (38-5) with 26 digs, while senior setter Mya Rashid distributed 39 assists.
“Tonight our kids were just mentally tough and ready to play this game and they weren’t going to let anything get in the way of them,” Holy Trinity Coach Melissa Freesmeier said.
Rashid has 1,119 assists this season and 2,092 in her career.
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“She’s giving me every single ball she could this season,” Box said. “And back row, they’ve done amazing getting the balls to our setter.”
Juniors Haley Goedken and Macy Mommer each had 15 digs for Starmont (30-6), which lost for just the second time in its last 25 matches.
“We got here by playing defense and our defense just didn’t show up tonight,” Starmont Coach Robert Goedken said. “We struggled with our receiving and we struggled on defense. We’ve never been a blocking team to get a lot of blocks and we’ve won a lot of games by playing defense and it didn’t happen tonight.”
Mommer led the Stars with nine kills, while Goedken and junior outside hitter Madilyn Vaske each had eight. Junior setter Regan Janssen posted 28 assists and nine digs.
With five junior starters, the Stars will a strong contender for a third-consecutive 1A state berth next season. That being said, if there were any notions of just being content to qualify, those days are over.
“We’re not satisfied,” said junior middle hitter Isabel Johanns, who tallied eight kills and four digs for the Stars. “We always want to go higher and bigger and better. We’ve got all the same girls coming back next year. We don’t have any seniors, we’ve got some really good freshmen coming up. We’re going to hit the gym and we’re looking forward to next year.”
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