The Hillsboro volleyball team knew being a defending state champion would put a huge target on its back against every opponent. But knowing that didn’t keep the Trojans from avoiding their first hit of the season Thursday against Council Grove.
After defeating the host team from Herington (25-14, 25-14) in their first match of the double dual, the Trojans lost a heartbreaker to Council Grove, 23-25, 25-22, 23-25.
For the superstitious, maybe it was because Hillsboro was trying to win its 13th straight match to start the season.
But coach Sandy Arnold said she sensed a lack of intensity from her team already in warmups, and didn’t think her squad played particularly well against Herington, despite the comfortable margins of victory.
“I don’t know if I have a reason for that,” Arnold said. “I don’t know if we were looking past the evening based on past experiences, I don’t know if there’s some gelling that needs to take place.”
The Trojans began the Council Grove match looking as if they would take care of the Braves. Hillsboro jumped ahead 4-1, and enjoyed its biggest lead at 18-12. With a 20-15 lead, Game 1 seemed in hand.
But down the stretch, the Trojans committed five unforced hitting errors and lost the last three points in the 25-23 loss.
Hillsboro trailed the Braves 8-6 to start Game 2, but Maci Schlehuber served for 10 consecutive points, including three aces, to put HHS ahead 16-8.
“Maci has a really nice serve,” Arnold said. “I don’t think people give her enough credit for that. She has worked on it. It moves, and it’s coming pretty fast.”
The Braves rallied for a 20-20 tie, but the Trojans secured the win by scoring five of the next seven points, ending the game with a hard kill by Alex Ratzlaff followed by an ace serve by Tena Loewen.
The rubber game got off to a bumpy start as Council Grove built a 12-6 lead, fueled by six Hillsboro hitting errors. But Addie Lackey served for a 9-0 run that gave the Trojans the lead at 15-12.
“Addie is just solid,” Arnold said. “She’s got that little jump float (serve), she mixes short and long, and that kind of frustrates people. And she was serving exactly where I asked her to serve—it was keeping their hitter out of the game. That’s what we wanted.”
Still leading at 18-15, the Trojans stumbled, surrendering six straight points—including a missed serve and four more hitting errors—and couldn’t recover.
“I can’t take anything away from Council Grove,” Arnold said. “I thought they played very well. But I can’t say that we played our best.
“Maybe this was the best thing for us,” she added. “We found out we’re not invincible. We have to play ball. Nobody’s going to give it to us.”
Hesston—The Trojans improved to 11-0 Sept. 4 by defeating Douglass (25-19, 25-20) and Hesston (25-22, 25-18) on the Swathers’ home court.
In the opening match against, Douglass, a 3A state qualifying team a year ago, the Trojans handled the scrappy Bulldogs in Game 1, but found themselves trailing in Game 2. Following a timeout by coach Sandy Arnold, the tide began to turn.
“Finally, we started chipping away and went ahead of them,” she said. “It was kind of back and forth for quite a while. We finally pulled ahead a little, but they never went away.
“I don’t think it was our sharpest performance, either game,” Arnold added. “I?didn’t feel our passing was very sharp in that match at all.”
Facing a talented Swather time for the third time in 10 days, the Trojans stepped up their game and built an 11-3 lead in Game 1.
“I kind of chewed on them a little bit after the Douglass match,” Arnold said. “We came out and we played really, really well.”
After Hesston’s second timeout, the Swathers rallied.
“I don’t know if they picked it up or we let down just a little bit, but we let them back in the game,” Arnold said. “So it was kind of a struggle after than, back and forth.”
With the Trojans clinging to a 23-22 lead, senior Tena Loewen stepped in to serve and delivered a pair of aces for the win.
“She’s got her top-spin going again (on her serve),” Arnold said. “She served really well. All the girls, aside from just a few, served the ball aggressively against Hesston. I think it helped take them out of their game.”
The Trojans cruised to a comfortable win in Game 2.
“It was a good team effort,” Arnold said of the victory. “We had a lot of long rallies against Hesston. We stuck with it and kept pushing.”
Arnold was pleased with her team’s defense overall.
“It’s coming,” she said. “We just need to be more consistent. I still think it’s going to take a little time, but you can see it progressing.”
Coming—Following scheduled matches Sept. 11 against Haven and host Cheney on Tuesday, the Trojans (12-1) get a bit of a break. They won’t compete again until next Tuesday when they travel to Kingman for a triangular with the home-team Eagles and Pratt.