But it didn’t come easily.
Squaring off first against a Nickerson team that had pushed them to three hard-fought games in the league’s preseason tournament, the Trojans found themselves in another tough scrap.
The Trojans trailed throughout Game 1 before finally taking their first lead at 17-16. But the Panthers didn’t back down, tying the game at 21, then again at 22 before reeling off the final three points to claim a 25-22 win.
Nickerson then had Hillsboro on the ropes early in Game 2, jumping to a 7-0 lead.
Trojan coach Sandy Arnold called a timeout at 0-4.
“We talked about the fact that we needed to use some power and try to find some holes—but deeper holes that were a little more vulnerable than others,” coach Sandy Arnold said.
She also told them it was time to step up their game.
“In the back of their minds, they knew they could do it,” she said. “I think they got a little angry at the whole situation and maybe that came out. It was a slow and steady comeback.”
Hillsboro finally got on the board with a hard kill from Dakota Kaufman. That point started the Trojans on a spurt that brought them back to 6-8 behind the serving of Bobbi Jo Carlson and Kaufman.
The game remained close, but the Trojans didn’t actually catch the Panthers until they pulled into a 22-22 tie.
The score was still tied at 24 when Carlson served for the final two points of a 26-24 victory.
“It was gut-check time, time to see if they could do it—and they did,” Arnold said. “I think we were actually a little nervous going into that match because we knew how close it had been at the tournament.
“Once we got through that game and seven points, we started to pull together and say, ‘Hey, we’re at home, let’s do it, let’s get it done.’ And we came out all right.”
Game 3 didn’t come easily, either. But once they pulled ahead at 5-4, the Trojans never trailed again. They led by as much as 24-16. Nickerson launched one last rally to pull as close as 24-20 before Hillsboro scored the winning point for a 25-20 victory.
Hillsboro followed a tough win over Nickerson with a relatively easy sweep of Lyons, 25-13, 25-4, dropping the Lions to 1-11 for the season.
Arnold said her team shouldn’t expect many easy victories this season.
“I told the girls it doesn’t matter who’s on our team, people are ought to get us,” she said.
“They want to beat to Hillsboro, so they’re going to have a target on their back and they’re going to have to be prepared every time they play because most teams are going to give us their best. They’ve got to be mentally prepared and take that as a challenge. I thought they did that.”
Coming—Hillsboro was scheduled to compete against Smoky Valley (1-0, 6-6) at Lindsborg on Tuesday, Sept. 18.
Next Tuesday, the Trojans travel to Haven for a triangular.