As it turned out, the Trojans were fortunate to come home with a split of their two matches.
Hillsboro lost its payback match to Hesston in the opening match, 19-25, 25-13, 18-25, then struggled to beat Marion 26-24, 25-21, in the nightcap.
The Trojans (8-2) were looking to turn the tables on the Swathers, who had prevailed in a three-game match during the league’s preseason tournament in Ellinwood 11 days earlier.
Instead, it was deja vu. As they did then, the Trojans lost a close Game 1, won comfortably in Game 2, then lost the rubber game by a decisive margin.
Fresh from the disappointing loss versus Hesston, the Trojans took the floor against the winless Warriors. Hillsboro fell behind early in Game 1 but managed to finish enough points down the stretch to pull out a win by the minimum 2-point margin.
The Trojans started Game 2 with an 8-1 run, but Marion pulled to within two points late in the match at 23-21 before Hillsboro escaped with the four-point victory.
Trojan coach Sandy Arnold said she was disappointed and somewhat mystified by her team’s play in both matches.
“I hope it was just one of those nights,” she said. “We weren’t even on a roller-coaster—we were at the bottom of it. We’re going to have to get some mental toughness.
“We had bright spots, but you have to have more than spots,” she added. “You have to have consistency.”
Against Hesston, Arnold said she wasn’t sure whether her players were trying too hard or whether they succumbed to nerves in the final game.
“I wish I knew the answer to that,” she said. “We obviously can play with them because we did in the second game.
“We just need to figure out how to get over the hump—and we need to do it earlier in the season because we’re going to have a whole lot of teams like that that we’re going to face.”
Arnold said although her team has a core of experienced players, she also plays several inexperienced ones in her 11-person rotation.
“Everybody’s going to have to step it up, whether they’ve played or not,” Arnold said. “We’re going to have to be together on the same page at all times and know exactly where we’re covering and why we’re doing that. We have to get some timing down still on some of the attacks and makes some better decisions.”
The Trojan coach said she expected some growing pains early in the season. But following a solid performance in the preseason tournament, she said her team has struggled to play consistently.
“This was just frustrating because I know they’re better than what they showed (at Marion),” she said.
“It’s not like the kids don’t want it. They do want it. We just have some kinks to work out.”
Coming—Home court may help the Trojans find their stride. Hillsboro was schedule to play host to Nickerson and Lyons for its first league matches of the season Tuesday, Sept. 11.
Next Tuesday, they travel to Lindsborg for a triangular with Smoky Valley and Halstead.