Team focus leads Trojan seniors to state berth

The Hillsboro Trojans took advantage of a few upsets and qualified for a berth in the Class 3A state volleyball tournament by sweeping Hoisington in the finals of sub-state competition at Hesston Saturday.

The Trojans played some of their most consistent volleyball of the season, not losing a single game in three matches, then beating the Cardinals convincingly in the finals, 15-8, 15-8.

“We really stayed focused today and made excellent passes,” said coach Collette Burton, who, in her third season at the helm, will be taking her first team to state. “We finally came together as a team and worked hard.

“This is the most focused I’ve seen them all year,” she said about the title match. “They were ready to play and they wanted it-and it showed.”

If the Trojans struggled during the day, it was during their opening match against Lyons, who came into the tournament with 6-16 record. The Trojans beat the No. 6 seed, 15-9, 15-11, in two hard-fought games after beating the Lions handily less than two weeks earlier.

Lyons actually led late in the second game, 11-10. But after Burton called a timeout, her team came back on the court, rallied for a sideout, and then strung together the final five points on serves from Andrea Peachey.

The Trojans then took on Southeast of Saline in the semifinals. SES, seeded seventh at 7-18, had upset the host team, No. 2 seeded Hesston (22-5 coming in), 2-15, 15-7, 15-8.

The Trojans trailed 4-1 early in Game 1, but Jenna Jost served for a string of seven consecutive points to give Hillsboro an 8-4 lead. SES rallied one more time, scoring the next five points with three servers to take a 9-8 lead.

Once more Burton called timeout. The Trojans responded with a side out. Then, with Peachey serving, HHS scored the next four points to take the lead for good, 12-9. After several service changes, Jill Hein served for the final two points and a 15-10 win.

In Game 2, Southeast jumped to a 3-0 lead and still led 10-6 later in the game. But Shannon Kroeker served for three straight points and Jill Hein strung together four straight to give Hillsboro a 13-10 lead.

SES managed two more points before Hillsboro’s Robyn Penner served the final two for a 15-12 triumph.

The win pitted Hillsboro against Hoisington for the title. The Cardinals, seeded fourth with a 17-11 record, had earned their spot by beating Marion in the opening round, 15-12, 15-12, then upsetting No. 1 seeded Ellinwood (21-3), 16-14, 9-15, 15-11 in their semifinal match.

The Trojans fell behind 4-1 early in Game 1 against Hoisington, but then scored 14 of the next 18 points to win in dominant fashion, 15-8.

In Game 2, HHS scored the first three points and was never really threatened on the scoreboard. But it took 31 service exchanges before Holly Lindsay served for the final two points. Hein ended the game and match with a solid spike and a 15-8 win.

Burton said she was pleased her nine seniors will get the chance to finish their high school careers with a shot at a state title.

“This is what we worked for all year,” she said. “I told them to go out there and give it all they had, and they did it.

“I’m excited for them,” she added. “This is their last year and this is what they wanted-and they’re there now. I wanted to see them there because I knew they had the potential as long as they stayed focused.”

Looking to state-The Trojans’ 26-6 record was good enough to be named the fourth seed at the Class 3A tournament in at the Bicenntennial Center in Salina.

The Trojans will open pool play on Friday morning with a 9:30 match against No. 5 Wellsville (27-8). At 11:30, they will take on No. 8 Frontenac (21-12) and then play No. 1 seed Seneca-Nemaha Valley (29-3) at 12:30 p.m.

If Hillsboro finishes first or second in its pool, the Trojans will play in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Saturday against the first- or second-place team from the other pool. The championship match and a third-place match will follow at 11:30 a.m.

The four teams comprising the other pool are Conway Springs, seeded No. 2 at 29-4, Minneapolis, seeded No. 3 at 28-5, Oberlin-Decatur Community, seeded No. 6 at 21-7, and Silver Lake, seeded No. 7 at 23-10.

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