PIERCE — The hope is that the Mid-State Conference tournament result wasn’t a harbinger of what was to come at this week’s sub-district playoffs for the Cedar Catholic volleyball team.
The Lady Trojans (21-10) were set to battle Wausa in the semifinals Monday in a rematch of an epic battle a year ago in the next round.
Cedar Catholic comes in after finishing sixth in the conference tournament after being seeded second.
The Lady Trojans fell last week to Battle Creek 3-0 (25-13, 25-22, 25-20) and then bounced back to take down O’Neill 3-2 (28-30, 25-19, 25-20, 1525, 15-11).
“(Against Battle Creek) We were still adjusting to not having Laney Kathol in the lineup and finding our bearings,” Cedar Catholic head coach Denae Buss said of losing one of the state’s best outside hitters. “We struggled to serve and got ourselves behind initially, but did have a good night at the net and worked out the kinks.
“(Against O’Neill) We really responded well and played great. We dug ourselves some holes early on in sets, but battled back, and overall, our players looked very calm and steady throughout the game.”
Melayna McGregor had nine kills against Battle Creek and 18 against O’Neill, while Lexi Eickhoff added 12. Lauren Bernecker didn’t hurt the cause with 10 kills in the win.
Eickhoff added three blocks, Katy Jones recorded 30 digs and Grace Wortmann had 20 digs while Meredith McGregor finished with 35 assists.
“Katy, Annika (Kuehn) and Grace dug a tremendous amount of balls and Melayna, Lauren, Lexi had the most kills they have had yet in a game this season,” Buss said.
“We got them out of system with our serves and it was really just a team win. Everyone contributed and it went well.”
Cedar Catholic wrapped up the week with a 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 25-10, 25-17) defeat against Guardian Angels Central Catholic.
Melayna McGregor had the big night with 17 kills.
“We came out and got out ahead right away behind a run of serves from Meredith and really didn’t look back that first set,” Buss said. “Second set, battled back and forth and didn’t pull away to get the win.
“Third set, GACC really got their offense going and we went into defense mode, but responded in the fourth set and we were very proud to see that.
“We didn’t lay down; we came back out swinging. GACC is a very good team, and despite the loss, I still feel we played well.”
Buss said she saw a lot of growth from the roster that needed to see players take on heavier roles as the team battled without Kathol.
“It forces everyone to work a little harder and think a little bit more,” Kuehn said. “It takes all of us and that’s what we ultimately saw after conference. It can take anyone to pass, hit and block. It helped everyone to realize they can do it and play to the best of their ability.”
The coach agreed that the experience may be beneficial.
“We saw a lot of growth this week from the entire group,” Buss said. “As a team, we were able to grow and come out as individuals that may have not had the spotlight yet and grow also as a team in our determination and attitude.
“We saw the girls go back to fundamentals and pull together. These things will help us tremendously in our postseason ambitions.
“We are excited to put it all together and see where this season takes us.”
The win against Wausa pits the Lady Trojans in the SubDistrict final against No. 1 and defending C2 champions Norfolk Catholic.
Kuehn said Cedar Catholic was happy with its regular-season performance.
“We wanted as minimal losses as possible. We were working really hard in practice, and it’s nice to see more wins than last year,” Kuehn said. “Obviously, we wanted to be conference champs. I think having (Laney) hurt, it affects the team. Our overall morale was a little bit lower since we hadn’t ever played without her before. We were trying to figure out what to do and a different way to play – we obviously wanted to win. It was a mental game without Laney, but we got such a good bench and threats on our team, I wasn’t worried going into it.”