Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 20 November 2012 16:04
Four players and the head coach from Hillsboro High School’s repeat state champion volleyball team recently received all-state recognition from Kansas Volleyball Association coaches.
Senior Tena Loewen, the Trojans’ 5-foot-11 outside hitter, was named Class 3A Player of the Year as well a first-team selection. Loewen received both honors last season as well.
Also selected to the 3A first team were junior Danae Bina, a 5-7 libero who received honorable mention a year ago, and freshman Alex Ratzlaff, a 5-9 middle blocker/outside hitter.
Addie Lackey, a 5-8 junior outside hitter, received honorable mention this season.
For the second consecutive year, Sandy Arnold was named Coach of Year in 3A. In addition to winning back-to-back titles, Arnold guided the Trojans to a 42-3 season record and the team’s first Central Kansas League championship with a perfect 9-0 record.
Arnold said Loewen’s repeat selection as player of the year was a credit to the senior’s determination as well as her skills.
“I’ve looked on the KVA site and there have been kids that have done that,” Arnold said of the repeat. “But what separates Tena a little bit is how she came back after a huge knee injury in between it all.
“She’s just a hard-working kid and a go-getter. I don’t know what would have kept her off the court this year. Just to think that she went through all of that and still came back to be the player of the year is just a tremendous feat.”
Arnold said Bina’s selection to the first team was significant for a libero.
“It’s not very often that a libero is looked at enough,” Arnold said. “If people would realize how important passing is to the game of volleyball, they would realize she’s one of the best. I’ve had officials say, ‘I’ve been all over the state and I haven’t seen one as good as that one.’
“Passing the ball, you don’t get a lot of glory—it’s usually how they finish,” Arnold said. “But I can tell you that none of that finish would happen if you didn’t have her passing the ball.”
For Ratzlaff to be named first team in her first year of high school volleyball is a testament to her improvement through the season, according to her coach.
“I?felt like Alex came on stronger at the end, especially at sub-state and state,” Arnold said. “I don’t know if they looked at (class). I think they just looked at how they played. She had a great tournament.”
As for the season, Arnold said, “I just thought she did a really nice job coming in as a freshman and playing on a team with a lot of good players.”
Arnold called Lackey the team’s “hidden weapon” and was glad the junior received statewide recognition.
“She does a lot of the skills well,” Arnold said. “She doesn’t do anything flashy maybe, but she can pass, she can serve, she can dig and she can hit. And she’s smart.
“I think people thought that when she was in the front they could ease up,” she added. “But we scored with Addie in the front, too. She’s just an athletic kid, and I was just really pleased to see someone take notice of her.”
As for her own repeat award, Arnold was quick to share the credit.
“It’s flattering, but people have to realize some things,” she said. “No. 1, I have incredibly talented kids who are willing to be coached. That right there says a lot. No. 2, I’ve got awesome assistants.”
Arnold said Collette Haslett and Jill Hein contribute as much to the team’s success as Arnold does.
“They are very athletic themselves, and they both played,” Arnold said. “So they know how to teach some things based on how they played. And they both have great rapport with the kids.
“Obviously, they know what they’re doing,” she added. “Coach Haslett took a team herself to state, and I think Coach Hein is ready to be a head coach any day.”
In addition to her assistant coaches, Arnold said she also has a group of peer coaches that she calls frequently for counsel and advice.
“I’m constantly learning,” she said. “I talk to other people and I go to clinics. I do anything I can to try and stay up with the game because it’s constantly changing. To do that, I have to talk to other people because I don’t just know it.”
Hillsboro’s 42 victories this year set a school record for most wins in a season. In Arnold’s nine seasons at HHS, her teams have qualified for state seven times, including the past five years. Her 275-78 record at Hillsboro gives her a win percentage of 78 percent.