By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
The dream of a state tournament berth is still alive for two Henry County volleyball teams. Both New London and Winfield-Mt. Union are juts two wins away from punching their tickets and both will be competing in the Class 1A regional semifinals tonight.
The sixth-ranked Tigers will host No. 5 Holy Trinity in Region 8 action, and W-MU will head to Victor to take on 14th-ranked HLV.
For New London, the story is the same this year as it has been for the last three years; to get to the state tournament in Cedar Rapids, you?ve got to go through HTC.
The Tigers have been knocked out by the Crusaders in each of the last two years after both teams made the state tourney in 2014.
The two teams played an instant classic in 2015 when they met up for the regional final at Ft. Madison High School. New London had the defending state champions? backs against the wall after taking the first two games 25-22 and 25-23, but the Crusaders rallied back, taking game three 25-17 and clawing out wins in the next two sets 27-25 and 16-14.
A young New London team had to come into enemy territory last season, when they faced a heavily-favored Crusader squad at Holy Trinity Catholic High School in the regional semifinal. The Tigers didn?t make it easy on HTC, playing within four, at 25-21, in the first set, but the Crusaders took the next two games 25-15 and swept New London out of the postseason.
This season has been a roller coaster for the two teams in all four of their previous matchups. New London swept HTC 21-17 and 21-18 to win the Keokuk tournament. HTC battled back to win the game at their home tournament 15-21, 21-10, 16-14. The Tigers flipped the script in the SEISC tournament final, winning 21-25, 25-22, 16-14, and HTC evened the series up at 2-2 with a four-set win at New London in early October, taking it 28-26, 18-25, 27-25, 25-14.
The stage is now set for the Tiger core to take on HTC one last time in their high school career. New London?s six seniors, Savannah Sutherland, Camryn Blint, Breanna Mettler, Ashley Birdsell, Jaden Streeter and Carson McSorley, have had countless battles with HTC and want to make their last memory of this rivalry a good one.
For W-MU, this postseason offers them the chance to be the cinderella story in Class 1A. The Wolves had a sub-.500 record this season, but have started to heat up late in the year.
The Wolves offer a mix of youth and experience. Out of the nine players to see the floor in their last game, five were seniors and three were freshmen, with junior hitter Liana Sweezer being the only one in between.
W-MU didn?t look fantastic in their first postseason game, needing four sets to defeat a two-win Keota team 25-9, 25-21, 24-26, 27-25. The Wolves looked as sharp as a tack in their next matchup however, blasting a talented IMS team 25-6, 27-25 and 25-14.
W-MU will take on an HLV squad that relies heavily on junior hitter Macie Boots and sophomore hitter Amber Cooling. The two are the focal point of the HLG offense and a young Wolves? defensive line will need to stop the two-headed monster if they want to advance to the regional final.
Both games will begin tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m.