While the New Haven volleyball Lady Shamrocks didn’t repeat as SEMO Dig for Life Challenge champion, Head Coach Jaime Hoener was pleased with the team’s play.

New Haven (10-2-1) reached the semifinals, losing to eventual champion Bloomfield, 25-15, 15-25, 25-22.

“We had a great weekend,” Hoener said. “We played Bloomfield closer in the semifinals than Jackson did in the finals. Bloomfield is a solid team. We came out slow in the third set and I used both of my timeouts early to fix some things. Once Bloomfield went on a run late in the game, we weren’t able to slow them down.”

The two-day tournament was split into three different rounds. Each team played one of the other teams in its pool and then played one match against another pool in the challenge round Friday. New Haven then went into bracket play Saturday.

Pool Play

• Split with Cape Notre Dame, 25-15, 18-25.

Challenge Round

• Defeated Lesterville, 25-18, 25-20.

Gold Bracket

• Defeated Eminence, 25-17, 25-15;

• Defeated Arcadia Valley, 20-25, 29-27, 25-19; and

• Lost to Bloomfield, 25-15, 15-25, 25-22.

“As a team, we progressed as the weekend went on,” said Hoener. “We are continuing to cut down on our hitting errors and increase our aces by serving more aggressively. Three of our regulars haven’t seen very much varsity action and they are adjusting to the quicker speed of the varsity game.”

Hoener said the core players led through the weekend with Kate Ruediger, Emma Engelbrecht, Lauren Gerlemann and Mackenzie Bauer taking charge.

“Kate, Emma, Lauren and Mackenzie are doing an exceptional job of being leaders and making plays,” Hoener said. “Those four girls do not understand how to take plays off and are some of the top leaders and players that I have ever had as a coach.”

Engelbrecht stepped up at the net.

“Emma was a lot to handle in the front row last weekend, but what was even more impressive to me was her play in the back row,” Hoener said. “She is serving aggressively and getting aces for our team as well as taking control on defense.  It’s a special thing to watch kids work at and excel at things that have given them some trouble in the past.  Emma had 79 kills for the weekend, hit .358, had 16 blocks and 41 digs.”

Ruediger had a big weekend as well.

“Kate was a lot of fun to watch this weekend as well,” Hoener said. “Kate’s work ethic and no-quit attitude remind me so much of Rachel Steinhoff. Out of 100 attempts this weekend, she only had five hitting errors. That is unheard of for an outside hitter, especially when you’re hitting with the velocity that she is. Her shot selection and heads-up plays make her a very special player. She hit .380 for the weekend, had 11 aces and 71 digs.”

Bauer ran the offense as the team’s main setter.

“Mackenzie did a solid job of running the offense,” Hoener said. “There were times that we had her scrambling and she always kept calm and made athletic plays. She had 10 aces and 168 assists for the weekend. We’re lucky to have her.”

Gerlemann also made key contributions.

“Lauren also had a good weekend,” Hoener said. “She’s not as flashy as Emma or Kate, but without her, we would be in trouble. She had 48 kills, nine blocks, 43 digs and hit .350.”

New Haven opens Four Rivers Conference play this week, hosting Owensville Thursday.

The Lady Shamrocks host their annual New Haven Round Robin Saturday starting at 9 a.m. Other teams are Belle, Bowling Green and Winfield.

The Lady Shamrocks are in the Monday pool at next week’s Hermann Tournament along with Washington and Pacific.