This past weekend, the Saxony Lutheran Crusaders volleyball team (25-8-2) postseason run came to a close in a crushing defeat against the Ursuline Academy Bears (15-3) in their Class 3 quarterfinal game.
However, Saxony won its fourth consecutive district championship and pulled out a win in their sectional matchup after districts.
Against the Bears, the Crusaders fell in an intense four-set match that was back and forth all evening, finishing the sets 25-21, 25-22, 25-21 and 25-21, respectively.
The energy in the building was high after Saxony took the first set of the game. The match was truly played at the net as both sides put up extremely impressive blocks. While the Crusaders had some struggles, they proved they could battle with Ursuline Academy at the net, putting on a show offensively.
Saxony senior right-side hitter Clara Brune led the team in kills in the rivalry bringing in a total of 13. She also showed her strength at the net by chipping in three blocks throughout the contest.
Crusaders senior middle blocker Paige Seibel was a huge contributor to the gameplay as she produced a game-high eight blocks and added eight kills of her own.
Saxony was able to continue attacking at the net due to the efforts of junior libero Camille Richey and junior setter Isabel Brown. Richey’s 15 digs led the team’s defensive efforts in the battle. She also produced 28 serve receptions for the Crusaders. As for Brown, she was able to connect well with her hitters and contributed 23 assists in the quarterfinal game.
Saxony head coach Stephanie Brown spoke on the topic of the difference between this game and other contests they had throughout the season.
“We just couldn’t get things rolling today,” Coach Brown said. “We were always playing from behind instead of playing on top. After we won that first set, Ursuline made a little run and I think after that they [my players] were just too tense and couldn’t relax and get into their groove.”
Appearing in this quarterfinal matchup against Ursuline Academy showed the integrity Saxony has put forth throughout the season, having to face many hard teams to get to that point.
In the district championship, Saxony faced off with the Notre Dame Bulldogs (24-7-3) and pulled off a smooth victory in three sets.
After that, the Crusaders went onto the sectional round where they were up against the Valle Catholic Indians (26-8-2) who also played the Crusaders in four tight sets, with the Crusaders coming out on top.
Having such a successful postseason takes a lot of time and effort, and it wasn’t always easy for the Crusaders as they had many struggles along the way.
When asked about hardships throughout the season, Coach Brown said, “Injuries have definitely been our issue this year — but as you can see even though the injuries were here — we still gutted it out and still played and you would’ve never known that they were hurt.”
While they put on a show this season, this is nothing new for the Crusaders as they have won four consecutive district titles. Despite being bumped up a class, they still had the ability to win the district tournament and the sectional game to follow.
“It’s really exciting, they worked really hard and they deserve it,” Brown said. “They deserve to be where they are. It sucks when you factor in the championship factor as we were bumped up a class, but we still came out and won districts and won sectionals and battled here in the quarterfinals.”
The Crusaders were able to be so successful in large part due to the efforts of the senior class. With a total of eight graduating seniors putting up big stats in every aspect of the game, Saxony was very reliant on them and will have to rebuild before next season.
Besides Seibel and Brune, many seniors were able to get things done throughout the season. Senior outside hitter Grace Ozark led the team in kills this season with a striking total of 345. Not to mention, senior setter Landre Hoehne contributed 406 assists throughout Saxony’s 25-win season.
“They’re a great group of girls. I was very fortunate to be able to coach them,” Coach Brown said of the seniors. “I’ve had most of them the whole time that I’ve been here and they’re a fun group and they work super hard and they are good teammates to each other.”