Holy Trinity versus New London.

It has become one of the most-anticipated volleyball matches of the season over the course of the last two decades. Usually it has a bearing on the SEI Superconference South Division race. Oftentimes it has been on the road to the SEI Superconference Tournament championship — the programs have combined to win 16 of the 27 tournaments — and more often than not they collide on the road to the state tournament.

The Tigers and Crusaders collide tonight in an SEI Superconference South Division match at 7:30 p.m. at Shottenkirk Gymnasium in Fort Madison in a match which will go a long way toward shaping the division race and, quite possibly, the road to state.

Holy Trinity (1-0) comes in ranked fourth in Class 1A, while New London (9-1) is ranked ninth.

It is the beginning of a busy week for both teams and will be a factor in seeding for this year's conference tournament, which is next week.

"We've had some great matches with them in the past," said New London coach Maureen Heath, who is 10 wins shy of 900 for her career. "We are pretty young this year and we don't have as much experience as we did last year. We are just going to go down there and work as hard as we can. Our kids won't back down from them. We'll go play our game and see what our young kids can do."

Holy Trinity has dominated the rivalry since 2007, going 38-5 in matches against the Tigers and 87-15 in games. They have met three times in the SEI Superconference Tournament during that span and five times in regionals. The Crusaders won all five regional matches — including the last three seasons — and won two of the three matches in the conference tournament.

The teams meet every year in the regular season, but have had the majority of their meeting in either the Keokuk Tournament, Holy Trinity Classic or Mount Pleasant Tournament.

The match not only pits two of the state's best programs head to head, it also features two of the all-time winningest coaches in state history. Holy Trinity coach Melissa Freesmeier has an 892-171 career record, second-best all-time, while Heath has an 890-246 career record, third-best all-time. Waverly-Shell Rock's EaVon Woodin is the state's all-time wins leader with a 1,003-284-49 record.

No matter what happens tonight at Holy Trinity, there is still plenty of volleyball left to be played, including the Keokuk Tournament on Saturday, where both the Crusaders and Tigers will compete. They will be paired in opposite pools, but could meet up in the finals.

And don't be surprised if they meet up a few more times. After all, they have averaged four matches against each in the last 11 seasons.

"They are ranked No. 4 in 1A, so they are a strong group of girls," Heath said. "Our kids are looking forward to it. These are the kinds of matches that make you better."

It is the start of a busy week for both teams. Holy Trinity travels to play Notre Dame on Tuesday, then returns home for another South Division showdown on Thursday, this one against Class 2A's 13th-ranked Van Buren (11-1) before closing the week at the Keokuk Tournament on Saturday.

New London returns to Charles Lorber Gymnasium on Thursday to host Notre Dame before heading to Keokuk on Saturday.

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SHIPP SAILING IN: West Burlington head volleyball coach Corina Shipp will celebrate a bit of history on Tuesday night when the Falcons host Cardinal in an SEI Superconference South Division match. Shipp won her 152nd career match at West Burlington last Tuesday at WACO, making her the winninest coach in program history. West Burlington was set to celebrate the milestone win two weeks ago, but Van Buren put the party on hold by sweeping away the Falcons. With a win over the Comets on Tuesday, the party will be on at West Burlington.

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WARRIORS WATCH: Speaking of the Van Buren volleyball team, the Warriors are on a roll heading into Tuesday's South Division home match against Danville. Since losing the West Burlington in the season-opening WACO Tournament on Aug. 20, the Warriors have reeled off nine straight wins, including a sweep of the Lady Falcons at West Burlington.

The Warriors have grabbed the attention of teams in southeast Iowa and have moved into the rankings. With a big week ahead, including a match at Holy Trinity on Thursday, the Warriors can make a statement to the rest of the state and keep themselves in the thick of a South Division race which appears to be a fight to the finish.

"We're excited to play (Holy Trinity). Our kids are excited. They are ready to go down there and beat them," Van Buren coach Matt Zeitler said. "I know (Emily) Box is a great hitter, but we've got some great hitters, too, and we've got (Isabel) Manning back there to control things. We played very good against West Burlington, sot so good against Cardinal and OK against Central Lee. Our kids are definitely ready for them."

Van Buren features three of the top players in Class 2A. Manning, a sophomore, is fourth in digs, averaging six per game. Selena Sayre is third in kills, averaging 4.41 per game. Taryn Scheuermann is among the state leaders in blocks, averaging 1.03 per game.

Van Buren is fifth in 2A in kills, averaging 10.63 per game, is 11th in serving percentage at 93.1 percent and is fourth in aces, averaging 3.03 per game.

"We had some blocking errors recently, so we've been working on that in practice the last week," Zeitler said. "We have also been working on staying focused on the teams that we should beat."

Winning at Shottenkirk Gymnasium is no easy feat. Since 2007, the Crusaders are 131-6 at Shottenkirk Gymnasium, a 95.6 winning percentage.

"It's going to be tough. Their students are packed in there and they are right on top of you," Zeitler said. "But I think we've got a chance."

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TIGER TALES: The New London football team is on a roll since making the move to eight-man football. The Tigers are 3-0 and have outscored their first three opponents by a combined 164-28 margin.

While quarterback Isaac McSorley, running back Keontae Luckett and receivers Mason Porter and Darius Whaley — all seniors — get many accolades, Coach McSorley points to the Tigers' stingy defense and stellar play on the offensive and defensive lines for helping the Tigers surge to third in the latest Associated Press eight-man rankings and No. 1 in the bcmoore.com rankings.

New London, at 2-0, is a half-game behind seventh-ranked Iowa Valley (3-0) in the District 4 standings. The Tigers travel to play Lone Tree (0-4, 0-3) at 7 p.m. Friday in another crucial game for the Tigers.

"I think they'll be a good test for us," Coach McSorley said of the Lions. "Our defense has been playing really good. We're trying to put a game plan in place for Friday. Nothing realy changes for us. We just go in and execute our game plan and hopefully it works out for us on Friday night."

The Tigers are an offensive juggernaut, averaging 422.3 yards and 54.7 points per game and 7.6 yards per play. The Tigers have made the transition from the 11-man game to eight-man game in stride.

"One of the big things we were trying to decide going from 11-man to eighth-man was how fast our kids would adapt to the new game," McSorley said. "We have quality kids and they have picked up the game fast. Our coaching staff is doing a great job with things."

The Tigers can ill-afford to look ahead. They have back-to-back home games against Tri-County and Winfield-Mount Union after this week, then must run the gauntlet to end the season with games at Iowa Valley and English Valleys before wrapping up the season with a home game against Montezuma.

Right now, Lone Tree is the only thing on the Tigers' minds.

"We are just trying to go week by week," McSorley said. "The good thing is we have been able to play a lot of underclassmen and that keeps them happy and helps them to get experience for this season and future seasons. Hopefully we can continue to do that."

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HARRIERS, TOO: One of the first big cross country meets of the season is set for Thursday at Rodeo Park in Fort Madison, where the 47th annual Timm Lamb Invitational is set to begin at 5 p.m.

There will be plenty of area talent on display, with teams from Burlington, Notre Dame-West Burlington, Fort Madison, Keokuk, Mount Pleasant, Central Lee, Columbus, Danville-New London, Holy Trinity, Illini West, Louisa-Muscatine, Mediapolis, Van Buren, Wapello, West Hancock and Winfield-Mount Union on hand, along with Fairfield, Washington and Clark County (Mo.).

Danville-New London is ranked 14th in Class 2A for the girls, led by senior Lexi Brown, who is ranked 14th in Class 2A, and sophomore Addison Parrott, who is ranked 5th in 2A. The Bears also feature senior Alyssa Pfadenhauer, the reigning Class 1A 400-meter dash champion.

Also in the girls field are Mediapolis senior Allison Renfro, who is ranked 10th in Class 2A, Mount Pleasant junior Abby Ryon (15th in Class 3A) and Fairfield senior Ashley Bloomquist (16th in Class 3A).

The boys field includes Mount Pleasant senior Cody Mertens, who is ranked third in Class 3A, and Wapello junior Aiden Housman, who is ranked 24th in Class 1A.

Another runner to keep an eye on is West Hancock freshman Miles Sheppard, the Illinois junior high state champion last year. He finished 26th in Class 1A out of 572 runners at Saturday's First to the Finish Invitational at Detweiller Park in Peoria, Illinois, site of the Illinois state cross country meet.