Trinity seniors on a mission for state title

SEYMOUR — The only thing missing from the resume of the Trinity Lutheran senior volleyball players is a state championship.

Ruthie Bingham, Kamzi Gross and Stella Kleffman have won 11 sectionals, a regional and a semistate between them.

Bingham and Gross have both been members of four straight sectional titlists and were starters in the 2019 team that advanced to the state Class A finals but lost.

Gross has been a four-year starter at libero. Bingham played in the 2018 sectional because of an injury to another Cougar and has started the past three seasons.

Kleffman played volleyball her freshman year at Columbus East, then transferred to Trinity but was limited to junior varsity action during the regular season because of the IHSAA’s transfer rule. She did dress for the 2019 sectional.

They all said winning a sectional their senior season is special, and all three want to play volleyball in college.

“It feels really good,” Bingham said. “It feels like the team really works together, and I love being part of it because we’re like a family. The celebrations afterwards are always super fun. I’ve looked forward to that all year.”

The Class A No. 1 Cougars take a 19-match win streak into the Loogootee Regional, where they will play the host Lions in the second match on Saturday. Lanesville and Springs Valley will play at 10 a.m., with the Trinity-Loogootee match to follow.

Bingham said teamwork has been important.

“We really rely on each other, and we’re more of a family,” she said. “We see them more than we see our actual families at home. We’re just used to being together all the time and talking things out.”

The Cougars are 28-4 going into the regional.

“It’s incredible,” Gross said. “It’s like a feeling I’ve never felt before. I love this game, and I love to win.”

Gross credits the 19-match win streak to communicating on the court.

“Our communication is great,” she said. “We all communicate well. It’s going to take everything from us (to win the regional). We’ve been waiting for this moment since we played them (Aug. 31 and won 25-26, 25-15, 25-14). We’re ready for them.”

Trinity has won eight straight sectionals, with Gross and Bingham accounting for the latter half of those.

“The program is great,” Gross said. “The coaching definitely helps. I’ve had Faith (Wilder-Newland) my four years, and also before (in club ball), and she’s a great coach and we have a great atmosphere, too.”

Kleffman said winning the sectional Saturday “is a dream come true and just knowing we’re not done yet is even more exciting, especially since it’s your senior year and you want to go out with a bang. I just know winning a state championship would be a great way to end it.”

Kleffman also said communication and teamwork are keys to the success the Cougars have enjoyed.

“It’s definitely teamwork and talking to each other, telling each other what is open at all times, and if someone is having a bad game you’ve got to pick them up,” she said. “It’s mostly teamwork and having each other’s backs. It’s our gym culture around here and I think that definitely takes place in the games that we win.”

She said she has enjoyed her Trinity teammates.

“It’s so much fun,” Kleffman said. “We are like a family on and off the court. It’s so hard sometimes to stay serious on the court because everyone is making jokes. We just have a good time out there.”

Bingham said, “It’s going to take staying focused, and determination through it all, who shows up to play. The rankings don’t matter. Once you get into postseason, it’s who shows up and who is ready. We’re going to be ready.”