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Holy Trinity, Mediapolis volleyball teams help fight for a greater cause

MEDIAPOLIS -- The Holy Trinity Catholic High School volleyball team has faced some uphill battles this season, struggling not only to replace graduated seniors Kassi Randolph and Anna Sobzak, but also the loss of injured all-state junior Natalie Randolph.

Mediapolis, on the other hand, has been battling inconsistency from its senior and junior-heavy team.

All of that was put in its proper perspective Tuesday night at the Vernon "Bud" McLearn Court.

Sure, Class 1A's 11th-ranked Holy Trinity came away with a 25-18, 25-18, 25-20 victory over the Bullettes in an SEI Superconference South Division match.

But this was about more than wins and losses.

Much more.

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This night was about Lisa Brinkmeyer, assistant director of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, who has been battling brain cancer since last spring.

While the players and coaches were battling to win the match, they also realized that there are much more important things in life than winning a volleyball match.

Both teams sported specially-made shirts in support of Brinkmeyer, who is in both the IGHSAU volleyball and basketball hall of fames. There was a 50-50 raffle, with all proceeds going to help Brinkmeyer and her family to offset their growing medical expenses.

While the Bullettes and Crusaders were battling to win a volleyball match, Brinkmeyer is battling for her life. Both coaches wanted their players to realize there are much bigger, more important things in life than winning and losing on the court.

"As (Mediapolis assistant coach) Amanda (Richardson) put it the other day, this game was bigger than volleyball," Holy Trinity head coach Melissa Freesmeier said. "I thought our people, our kids, I know they really stepped up to support Lisa and her fight. I'm proud to say Mediapolis and us teamed together and made this happen. It's just been great by both communities."

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"We actually have a girl on the team whose mom is battling breast cancer. I think cancer awareness is big. You look at most teams and someone they know has been touched by cancer," Mediapolis head coach Erin Steffener said. "It was great. Both teams had the blue and orange T-shirts to honor Lisa. We got a group picture together with both teams at the beginning. I know Holy Trinity did a 50-50 raffle and I think it did well. Just getting Lisa's name out there and getting her name out there is what we really wanted. Any funds we can raise to help her and her family is an added bonus."

Mueller provides senior leadership

Brooke Mueller has been a starter for Holy Trinity for four years. She has been to the state tournament twice.

She has learned her lessons well.

Mueller provided the Crusaders with a big lift at a time when her team needed one. Mueller connected on 25-of-26 serves with five aces and also led the team with nine kills.

That is the kind of leadership Freesmeier not only expects, but demands from her seniors.

"Being a senior I just want to be a leader on the team and show others that they can rely on me. If they're down, they can come to me and I ill help lift them up. I'm going to be there and I'm going to lead this team," Mueller said. "A game is just like practice. There's nothing that changes. Our mentality needs to stay the same and we need to keep our composure and just push."

"She just really stepped up tonight. She was ready. Her mentality was we're not going to let this game get away. I think it helped us prevail tonight," Freesmeier said of Mueller. "She was great from the service line and from the hitting line with no errors. That's one thing she's always done is she's had that great serve that gives other teams fits. We keep working on that and keep playing as a team. I thought our chemistry was a little better tonight."

Mediapolis a work in progress

Mediapolis continues to have its ups and downs as the juniors and seniors learn to play as a team.

While the Bullettes led just four times -- all in the opening set -- Steffener was pleased with the fight the Bullettes showed, especially in the third set, when they battled back from a 10-1 deficit  to pull within two points and 21-19.

"Mediapolis is very scrappy," Freesmeier said. "We had some huge, huge points there we connected on that I thought was a big factor.

"Streaky is what I would call us," Steffener said. "We go on runs and then let teams back in. We faced it this weekend in a tournament that we were in. It's something we've got to fix. They're juniors and seniors and they've been playing for a couple years. Now it's just playing together that they're getting used to."

Mediapolis’ Hanna Wagenbach (9) celebrates scoring a point against Holy Trinity Tuesday in Mediapolis.
Mediapolis’ Hanna Wagenbach (9) celebrates scoring a point against Holy Trinity Tuesday in Mediapolis.

On the horizon

Holy Trinity (7-6 overall,(1-2 South Division) hosts Class 2A's fourth-ranked West Burlington at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Shottenkirk Gymnasium.

Mediapolis (5-4 (2-1) travels to play Class 1A's 10th-ranked New London at 7:30 p.m. at Charles Lorber Gymnasium in New London.

By the numbers

HOLY TRINITY

Kills — Brooke Mueller 9, Mary Kate Bendlage 8, Presley Myers 7, Taegan Denning 6, Anna Bendlage 3, Kayla Box 3

Assists — Anna Bendlage 27, Mary Kate Bendlage 1, Box 1

Serving — Denning 10-10 (1 ace), Alexis Dingman 8-8, Mueller 25-26 (5 aces), Anna Bendlange 10-11, Teagan Snaadt 4-5, Mary Kate Bendlage 7-9

Blocks — Myers 2, Mary Kate Bendlage 1, Mueller 1

Digs — Denning 20, Mary Kate Bendlage 16, Mueller 14, Snaadt 7, Anna Bendlage 7, Dingman 3, Box 3, Lauren Mehmert 1, Myers 1

MEDIAPOLIS

Kills — Haley Steffener 7, Hanna Wagenbach 5, Lexie Arnold 4, Kennedy Welliver 2, Brenna Thie 1, Jaydon Wirt 1

Assists — Welliver 16, Wirt 1

Serving — Welliver 16-16 (1 ace), Lilly Luttenegger 10-10, Wirt 9-9, Macy Woodruff 7-7 (a ace), Wagenbach 8-9 (1 ace), Steffener 5-6 (1 ace)

Blocks — Wagenbach 4, Steffener 1, Welliver 1, Morgan Frank 1

Digs — Steffener 23, Wirt 17, Luttenegger 7, Welliver 5, Arnold 4, Woodruff 4, Wagenbach 1, Frank 1

Records — Holy Trinity 7-6 overall (1-2 SEI Superconference South Division), Mediapolis 5-4 (2-1)

Matt Levins is a sports reporter for the USA Today Network in Burlington, Iowa, who has covered local sports for 32 years at The Hawk Eye. Reach him at mlevins@thehawkeye.com.

This article originally appeared on The Hawk Eye: Holy Trinity sweeps Mediapolis in Brink's Bench volleyball match