CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa | Thursday night’s Class 1A state semifinal offered U.S. Cellular Center fans a glimpse of two middle hitters who will continue their volleyball career in college, but have yet to make their decisions public.
Each won Iowa Girls Coaches Association 1A first-team all-state honors a year ago. Emily Box, a 5-11 senior from Fort Madison Holy Trinity Catholic, slammed 22 kills and also supplied seven digs and four block assists during a 25-15, 26-28, 25-20, 25-16 win over Le Mars Gehlen Catholic.
“I think she’s just good and she knows where to place the ball,” said Gehlen’s Katie Peters, a returning first-team 1A selection from last year’s 29-7 runner-up state tournament team who in the final match of her strong four-year career recorded 21 kills, 17 digs and two block assists.
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“She has obviously seen a lot of volleyball. She just knows how to play the ball. They’re a good ball club. All props to them. I hope they come out tough against Janesville.”
Box has averaged a solid 5.1 kills per game while reaching double-digit kill totals in each of the last four matches for third-seeded Holy Trinity, which will take a 37-3 record into Friday night’s 7 o’clock 1A title match against three-time defending state champion Janesville (45-5), a 3-0 semifinal winner over Tripoli.
Box has amassed over 1,500 career kills for the Crusaders, a program that has reached the state tournament nine straight years, highlighted by the 2014 1A title.
That year, Holy Trinity swept Coach Mike Meyer’s Jays. This was the fourth state tournament meeting between the two schools, a series the Crusaders lead 3-1.
Gehlen (28-5) trailed throughout the first set, but forced a deadlock in the match with the Game 2 triumph. Meyer’s squad, which has competed in nine of the last 10 state tournaments, hit .231 in the second set after hitting .024 in the first set, then hit well below .100 in the third and fourth games.
“We just seemed to have a tough time really coming after it,” said Meyer. “They deserve a lot of credit. They looked quicker than us, they passed better than us, they covered the floor better than us. We just struggled in a lot of things.
“It’s disappointing because we are a veteran team. I’m sure our kids feel like they didn’t play their best. Sometimes that happens down here. You need people to be able to step up and take care of business. We just didn’t have enough.”
Peters is certainly one of those collegiate volleyball prospects. The 6-footer picked up her third double-digit kill effort in the last four matches, hitting a respectable .259 compared to Box’s off-the-charts .432.
“(Box) has that great leaper ability,” said Holy Trinity Coach Melissa Freesmeier. “She’s able to tip the ball where they’re not. She was focused. She was able to go around that block or even over that block. She’s a great player and she’s going to do great on the college level. She’s an awesome kid and an awesome player.”
Katelyn Langel, who along with Peters is one of six state tournament veterans for the runner-up team of the War Eagle Conference, provided nine kills, one solo block and eight block assists. Langel won second-team 1A honors a year ago.
Setter/right side hitter Sydney Livermore contributed 27 assists, six kills, 11 digs and seven block assists.
Anna Britt had 19 assists and 15 digs for the Jays. Brooklyn Heissel recorded 18 digs, two block assists and an ace serve while libero Chloe Bunkers, a returning third-team 1A pick, had 25 digs.
Peters has career totals of 1,138 kills and 789 digs for teams that won 111 matches in four seasons.
“We’ll definitely remember this season,” said Peters. “I’ll remember the team and how we clicked and how we could put the ball away when we needed to and all the fun we had. It’s been a good four years. There’s a lot of memories from pre-game meals to team sleepovers and coming here. It means so much to me.”