The Greats of Green Bay: Crusaders win third straight volleyball crown

Catholic Memorial's girls volleyball team seldom faces deficits of any kind, but it showed Saturday in the state-championship match that it could overcome one when it arrived.

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There isn’t a deficit too big the Catholic Memorial volleyball team can’t overcome.

The Crusaders trailed Notre Dame 16-4 in the second set but roared back with a 21-3 run to pull out a win in the WIAA Division 2 state championship match. That was devastating to the Tritons, as the Crusaders went up two sets to none, and Catholic Memorial then cruised in the third to earn a 3-0 sweep (25-23, 25-19, 25-14) on Nov. 5 at the Resch Center in Green Bay.

It’s the third state title in a row for the Crusaders and sixth in the last eight years. Catholic Memorial now holds seven state titles, tied for second all-time in Wisconsin.

The senior class -- Lexi Alden, Ivey Whalen, Maddy Rondeau, Kathryn Christian, Kaitlyn Zingsheim, Grace Sheetz and BreAnna Portz – ended its career with yet another gold ball.

“At least for me, I never imagined as a freshman that I’d end up being a senior with three state championships,” Christian said. “But it was definitely a whole team, seniors like Bre (Portz), Kaitlyn (Zingsheim). It was all of us – it was a whole team. Not just the seniors, it was every single person.”

“Each state championship has been very different in the way that it ends,” said Alden, who will play her college volleyball at Maryland. “I think this one is special because this is the last moment I get to play with all of these guys before going off to college.”

Added Rondeau: “It’s kind of been emotional for all of us. We’ve been playing together for four years now, and for it to finally come to an end on such a high note has just been positive.”

Catholic Memorial (42-7) beat Notre Dame (40-7) in the state semifinals in 2015, so the Tritons were looking to avenge the three-set loss. However, that was virtually impossible after the Crusaders’ 21-3 run in the second set, which stretched into the third for a 46-17 spurt.

Catholic Memorial was down 5-2 in the second when Notre Dame rattled off an 11-2 run to go up 16-4. Crusaders coach Ted Schulte called a timeout to settle down his players.

“I have no idea what we were doing,” Schulte said. “It appeared my team didn’t know what they were doing either for a stretch of time there. But then, by god, we said, ‘Enough of that.’ I don’t think there was anything magic I said in the timeout. I think they just realized they were capable of doing much more.”

However, the players said it was Schulte’s words that resonated on the court.

“He looked at us and he said, ‘Are you overwhelmed by this situation?’” Alden said. “Before that, we were kind of looking at each other going, ‘What’s going on?’ And after he said that, I think we all kind of realized we have nothing lose. We just went out there and just started fighting.”

Rondeau started the rally with a kill, and Christian was on fire at the service line. She tallied five aces, including four in a row, as Catholic Memorial went on a 12-0 run to go up, 19-17. Sheetz and Alden had back-to-back kills, and Alden and Whalen teamed up for a block to end the set, 25-19.

“I think it’s a big confidence booster for all of us,” Rondeau said. “When we came back in that game and end up winning, it was like, ‘Guys, we can do this.’ We just fought back.”

Great serving from Christian and strong play at the net made all the difference. Christian led her team as a junior and senior in service aces, and she picked up six in the match.

“I knew after a couple that the team was doing a good job of keeping my serves, so it wasn’t all just me,” Christian said. “It was a good team effort, because every time that the ball went over the net, the team would be ready for whatever came back and I knew that everybody wanted to fight 100 percent to get the game back and win.”

The victory in the second set put Catholic Memorial up, 2-0, after the Crusaders hung on 25-23 in the opening set. Catholic Memorial, which had 13 aces in the match, didn’t rest in the third set and jumped out to a 12-3 advantage. The second set debacle was still lingering on the minds of the Notre Dame players.

“That was tough to rebound from; that was tough to recover from,” Notre Dame coach Ben Wolf said. “They served aggressive, and we just couldn’t respond in the serve receive end of it.”

The Crusaders built on their nine-point lead and made it 20-7 on an error by Notre Dame. Catholic Memorial finished out the set and the match with a 25-14 victory as the players mobbed each other on the court after capturing another state title.

Alden scored a match-high 15 kills and Whalen added 11. Rondeau had 23 assists and Emily Mirsberger came through with 10. Christian was the leader in digs with 13 for Catholic Memorial.

The seven seniors who played their final match for Catholic Memorial will definitely leave their mark with the program.

“They leave a legacy of hard work, performance, success, certainly,” Schulte said. “Practices are interesting sometimes. You saw a little yelling from me on the sideline today, which I don’t normally do at state – I do other times, certainly. But I also think we have a lot of fun. I think we enjoy our time together at the end of day and we overcome the stresses that they have with me as their coach.”

Rondeau interrupted her coach.

“We’re going to miss it, Ted,” the senior said. “We’re going to miss it.”

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