It was time to quit thinking and simply get it done. That’s just what the Hillsboro volleyball team did Saturday afternoon by repeating as the Class 3A state champions at the Bicentennial Center in Salina. Adopting the theme “Rethink Possible” at the start of the season, the Trojans did what many knew would be extremely difficult to do by winning consecutive titles.
Hillsboro set itself up for that opportunity on Friday by going 3-0 in pool play to qualify for the final-four championship bracket. Facing Southeast of Saline in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon, Hillsboro looked to be on the top of its game, dominating the first set, 25-12. But Southeast turned the tables in Game 2, leading by as many as eight points at 21-13 before Hillsboro rallied to close the gap to 23-22. Southeast then won the final two points to claim the 25-22 win.
In the rubber game, Hillsboro took charge once more and led from start to finish on the way to a 25-16 win and a berth in the finals against the top-seeded Owls from Garden Plain.
The Trojans suffered no letdown in the finals against a team that had equaled their 37-3 record coming into the tournament. Game 1 was tight from start to finish, with neither team leading by more than two points until Hillsboro pushed the margin to 19-15 near the end. Garden Plain fought back to within 21-20, but Tena Loewen nailed two kills and Addie Lackey one to bring HHS to the brink of victory at 24-20. After a bad serve narrowed the lead to three, Garden Plain was called for a lift hit as the Trojans nailed down the 25-21 win.
In the early moments, Game 2 appeared to be following a similar theme as Game 2 against Southeast, as the Owls took a 3-1 lead. But the Trojans regrouped, grabbed the lead at 5-4 and never trailed again on the way to a relatively comfortable 25-16 win and the championship celebration.
In addition to claiming back-to-back state titles, this Trojan team set a school record for wins in a season at 42-3. For coach Sandy Arnold, this was her seventh appearance at state — including five in a row — in her nine seasons at the helm.