ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
After a high-flying start to the season last Tuesday, the Hillsboro volleyball team fell back to earth with a 1-3 showing at the first MCAA Pre-Season Tournament held in Hesston on Saturday.
Still savoring big wins over defending state champion Conway Springs and MCAA rival Hesston in the season opener Sept. 2, the Trojans quickly fell behind Nickerson, 2-7, in the first round of pool play. But the Trojans regrouped in time to take Game 1 in convincing fashion, 25-14.
But Hillsboro looked out of sync in Game 2, falling quickly behind 0-4 and never really recovered en route to a 13-25 loss.
In the rubber game, Hillsboro played the Panthers even to a 10-10 stand off before giving up five of the next six points to lose the game and the match, 11-15.
“I was disappointed for the Nickerson game,” coach Tina King said. “I felt we fell apart and couldn’t find the right teamwork to get it back together. I know we’re a better team than that.”
The Trojans picked up their game in the remaining three matches, but found themselves facing tougher competition in two of them.
Lyons, one of the top teams in the MCAA a year ago, swept Hillsboro in two hard-fought games that slipped away late by identical scores of 15-25.
“It turned out to be a very good match, and, even though we lost, we lost playing hard,” King said. “I think Lyons will probably be the top team in our league this year.”
The Trojans took advantage of their chance to dominate an opponent when they took on Halstead in the third round. Hillsboro slowly built a lead and then finished strong in both games on the way to a 25-14, 25-12 sweep of the Dragons.
“I was proud they came out and played up to their level instead of letting down,” King said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to stress that we need to do all the time.”
In the final round of pool play, the Trojans got a preview of Hoisington, who will officially join the MCAA next season. The Cardinals gave notice that they will be contenders in the expanded league by taking three of four games in pool play-including a convincing 15-25, 12-25 win over a Trojan team that did not play badly against them.
“Hoisington’s a good team,” King said. “They have a lot of height and a lot of power. They’re going to be a real good state contender this year.”
Overall, King felt the tournament was an educational experience for her squad, whose record now stands at 3-3 for the young season.
“My comment to the girls was, this is what pre-season tournaments are for-so we can learn,” she said. “I know we’ve got to work on some of our coverages and things like that.”
King said the tournament gave the girls a taste of what lies ahead this season.
“I think the competition in our league is getting to a higher level compared to what it has been in the past,” she said.
“You can tell in Hoisington and Lyons that a lot of those girls play club volleyball. Our league is going to become a faster-paced league because of that.”
Hesston won the tournament title by beating Lyons in the finals of bracket play. Sterling defeated Hoisington for third.
Coming-The Trojans were scheduled to travel to Haven for a dual match Tuesday. Their next competition will be Sept. 16, when they take on Lyons in their home opener at Brown Gymnasium. Matches begin at 5 p.m.
A complete report of Tuesday matches, including the Trojans’ dramatic wins over Conway Springs and Hesston, appear in the Free Press Extra, which can be purchased on newsstands or at the Free Press office.