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I-A VOLLEYBALL: Kronschnabel guides Crusaders to fourth straight region crown

Faith Lutheran setter Megan Kronschnabel already had been a part of two Division I-A Southern Region title-winning teams prior to Friday’s matchup with Sierra Vista.

The third one she got against the Mountain Lions meant more than the first two.

“I’ve had a higher role each year,” said Kronschnabel, a senior. “In my sophomore year, we ran a 6-2 (offense), so I only played half the time. And now I’m kind of like the leader and I keep the team together. I feel like I’ve had more of an impact each year and it gets more exciting because of it.”

Kronschnabel dished out 41 assists to lead the host Crusaders by Sierra Vista for the third time this season with a 25-23, 25-13, 25-14 sweep. Both teams advance to the state tournament starting Nov. 13 at Foothill.

Faith Lutheran (28-11), which captured its fourth consecutive Southern Region title, will be looking for a third straight state title.

Kronschnabel’s play was critical, especially in the first set as the Crusaders erased an early six-point deficit and overcame eight ties.

After falling behind 11-5, Faith Lutheran tied the set at 16 and grabbed its first lead on a block by Bryanna Neagle.

“Sierra Vista did a great job,” Faith Lutheran coach Amy Fisher said. “They came out and played really, really well. I feel like they played better tonight than they did last night (in the semifinals). They were digging a lot of balls.”

Sierra Vista (20-13) rallied for a 20-17 lead, forcing Fisher to burn both of her timeouts. After the teams traded points, Fisher got creative by calling a substitution for Bobbi Tharaldson with the Mountain Lions up 21-18.

“I was out of timeouts at that point, so I wanted to disrupt their server,” Fisher said. “When she came out I told her, ‘You’re fine. I’m just out of timeouts, so I’ve got to sub.’ It was mostly to disrupt their server and give us a little break and take a breath.”

The Crusaders went on to tie the set at 23 and eventually took the set on a kill from Tharaldson and an ace by Kronschnabel.

The Mountain Lions didn’t have the same fight in the next two sets.

Kronschnabel kept Sierra Vista off-guard by distributing the ball to both sides in Faith Lutheran’s offense..

“The knowledge she has for this game is far more than anybody I’ve ever coached,” Fisher said. “That helps her to anticipate what’s going to happen next and do what she does. People are really amazed by her when they see her play.”

The 5-foot-4-inch Kronschnabel got help from her outside hitters.

Elizabeth Tuls put down 11 kills, Tharaldson added 10 kills and Sydney Washington had eight kills for the Crusaders.

“I like going to all my hitters because they have different strengths,” Kronschnabel said. “That really opens up the block and makes it harder for the other team to defend when they don’t know who I’m going to set it to. …

“I have a really good setter-hitter relationship with my hitters. I can tell, almost, by the way that they call if they really want it. They’ll make it known.”

In the second set, Faith Lutheran stormed out to a 16-6 lead and cruised the rest of the way. Tharaldson, who finished with three aces and nine digs, capped the set with consecutive kills.

“In game two we stepped it up,” Fisher said. “We got the break with the ace serve and that kind of fueled us. We stepped up to the challenge. That’s one of those things with this team: you can never count us out.”

Faith Lutheran ran away with the third set after grabbing the first four points and taking a 14-1 lead. Tharaldson served nine straight points to put the rout in motion.

The Crusaders led by as many as 14 points in the third set and won the match on Tayah Washington’s winning joust at the net.

Neagle had seven kills and two blocks, and Tayah Washington finished with five kills for Faith Lutheran, which also got nine digs from Logan Van Reken.

Shantalle Demirjian led Sierra Vista with 10 kills. Faith Gray-Williams had 31 assists, and Bridgette Levi notched nine kills for the Mountain Lions.

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