FORT MADISON — If you just watched the first half of No. 6 (1A) New London’s opening sets against Holy Trinity Catholic on Tuesday night, you’d think they took a 2-0 lead, but the Southeast Iowa Super Conference tournament champions wouldn’t let New London capture any of the three sets played on their home floor.
New London saw early leads disappear in the first two games and didn’t have enough gas in the third, as HTC ran away with a sweep, winning 25-21, 25-21, 25-16.
New London led by as high as three points early in the first set. The Tigers jumped on the Crusaders right away, and thanks to two early kills by Natalie Burden and one each from Sofie Reighard, Paris Wilka and Sofie Malott, they hit double digits first, at 10-7.
HTC would claw back, however, and take their first lead of the second game at 16-15. New London would never have the lead again, eventually faltering 25-21 to drop the opener.
The Tigers were red-hot in the beginning stages of the second. New London put up the first five points, two coming on big kills from Reighard and an ace by Aaliyah Christensen, who’s service run put the Tigers in good shape.
Once again, though, HTC responded. The Tigers kept the lead for the majority of the game again, but again, it only led to disappointment. After trailing 16-15 just over midway through, HTC ended the set on a 10-5 run and once again stopped the Tigers at 21 points.
The Tigers couldn’t get the engine started in the final set. HTC scored six of the first seven points, and despite a five-kill set from Keaura Williams, New London never sniffed the lead again. HTC went coast-to-coast in the third and vanquished their South Division foes.
It was the fifth loss in nine games for the Tigers, who began the season 6-0. All five of those losses came to South Division foes, but this was their first loss in league play. WACO and HTC now stand atop the division as the only two undefeateds.
New London head coach Maureen Heath said though it was a loss, she saw some positives out of her squad. Coach Heath was disappointed in the way New London fared in the conference tournament on Saturday, and says she saw some extra effort on Tuesday night.
“I saw more energy out of my team tonight than I did on Saturday,” Heath said. “That was our mission, and that was our goal.”
The Tigers still have a chance at finishing the year on top in the South if they get back on the winning track and get a little help with an HTC loss or two. In some years, that sounds impossible, but Heath says every game is a challenge in one of the deepest leagues around.
“I hope that it makes us better in the long run,” Heath said. “But it’s a challenge, that’s for sure.”
New London is now 10-5 overall and 3-1 in the South Division, sitting in third place. WACO and HTC are both at 4-0 and will play on Thursday in Wayland. New London will get their shot at WACO in a home game next week.
Before that, however, the Tigers are off to Keosauqua. New London plays Van Buren County (7-10, 2-3) on Thursday night.