The Hillsboro volleyball team checked off two more team goals last week, winning its Trojan Invitational Saturday—the first time since 2006—after nailing down the Central Kansas League regular-season title four days earlier.
Hillsboro, which has won its home tournament only twice since 1995, sailed through the 19th annual event without losing a single game on the way to a 5-0 match record.
“It was a good day,” coach Sandy Arnold said. “I thought the girls played well and were pretty consistent.”
In pool play, No. 1 seeded Hillsboro opened with a 25-9, 25-13 win over Chapman (3-20 coming into the day), then beat Minneapolis 25-14, 25-11 (11-14) and Sterling 25-8, 25-8 (14-16).
“I thought we played at our level,” Arnold said about the matches. “We served the ball pretty well, and that bothered a few teams.
“I did talk to them about the Sterling match, because that’s the team that seems to give us a lot of trouble in this tournament.”
In the championship bracket, Hillsboro faced its toughest match of the day in the semifinals against Rock Creek (17-14), but prevailed, 25-17, 25-20.
“Rock Creek always brings a quality team, so I never look past them,” Arnold said. “We played really well at the beginning of the first game, but I was a little disappointed with the end of it. We kind of let one server get to us a little bit. But for the most part, the girls played really well.”
Hillsboro faced No. 2 seeded Circle (18-13) in the finals and used serving as a key weapon on the way to a 25-9, 25-13 win.
Tena Loewen served for 10 straight points in Game 1, including seven aces. Two servers later, Alex Ratzlaff stepped in at 21 and delivered four consecutive aces for the win.
Circle made some adjustments for Game 2, which featured several long rallies—most of which Hillsboro won in the end. Shannon Heiser served for seven straight points early in the match to give the Trojans a lead they never relinquished.
“We did some good things against that team,” Arnold said. “We knew what to expect from them after watching them, and we did a good job of keeping their big girl (6-foot senior Leslie Geis) out of it. And that gets them frustrated because they can’t get their offense going.”
Arnold said her team entered the day confident but focused following a heart-to-heart speech at Friday’s practice.
“We were talking about where we are in the season and how you can’t take anything for granted,” she said. “Nobody’s going to roll over for us. As a matter of fact, they’re going to bring their best. It’s going to take everything you have to reach our ultimate goal.”
Halstead—Hillsboro nailed down the Central Kansas League regular-season title by sweeping Halstead and Nickerson last Tuesday at Halstead. The Trojans finished with an unblemished 9-0 record in league play.
The critical match was the opener against the home team. The Dragons came into the evening with a 21-12 record overall and 5-2 in the league. But the Trojans dispatched Halstead with relative ease, 25-9, 25-20.
Tena Loewen led the Trojan attack with 13 kills for the match while Alex Ratzlaff added 10. Addie Lackey served six aces for Hillsboro.
In the nightcap, Hillsboro took care of Nickerson (1-6, 5-26) as expected by identical scores of 25-12. Loewen registered eight kills; Lackey added seven kills and scored six service aces.
Coming—Hillsboro (33-2) was to tune up for sub-state with a triangular Tuesday against the two teams that may be their biggest obstacles later in the week. Sedgwick, with only one loss, is ranked No. 5 in Class 3A while Hutchinson Trinity is among the “others to watch” with only five losses.
A win over both teams would give Hillsboro the No. 1 seed Saturday. Joining those three schools, along with the host team from Halstead, are Marion, Haven, Lyons and Remington.
“A lot of it is mental right now for us,” Arnold said. “Obviously the girls are talented. They do things (in games) we don’t even practice. I’ve been very blessed with this group of athletes.
“We have to prepare mentally for all of these teams that are coming at us, and not let anybody see us get rattled if we do. We just need to come back and make the next play.”