CEDAR RAPIDS -- While Starmont's up-and-coming volleyball program continues to make progress, there's still work to be done for the Stars to advance in the state tournament.
Holy Trinity Catholic leaned heavily on Iowa's 2017 kills leader Emily Box and swept Starmont Wednesday night in Class 1A's opening round, 25-17, 25-21, 25-17.
"We win a lot of games on our defensive play because we're not a very tall team, and the defense just struggled tonight," Starmont coach Robert Goedken said. "They played better defense that we did and they've got a little stronger hitters than we've got, but it's still good to be here."
This marked the second state tournament appearance in as many years as Starmont made the program's state debut last fall before being swept by eventual 2016 champion Janesville.
Box, a 5-foot-11 junior middle hitter who entered the match averaging 6.11 kills per set, certainly is the type of player who can stress even the strongest defenses. She led the Crusaders (38-5) with 25 kills on 48 swings and didn't make a single error with that heavy workload.
"She's really been able to run different things in the front row," Holy Trinity coach Melissa Freesmeier said of her standout middle. "She just transitions so well and gets things done. She's got amazing hang time and puts the ball away and sees the floor."
A variety of players gained further seasoning for a Starmont team that doesn't have a single senior in its lineup. Macy Mommer led the way with nine kills, Hayley Goedken and Madilyn Vaske tallied eight and Isabel Johanns finished with seven. Hayley Goedken and Mommer recorded 15 digs apiece to lead the defensive effort against a potent Crusaders attack that hit . 265.
"One of my players is my daughter so these have kind of been daughters to me," Robert Goedken said, assessing his team's rise. "They've grown up with me. They're just a fun group. I've got great parents and they're always supportive."