ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro High School volleyball team finished right where it was seeded-third-at the Canton-Galva Invitational on Friday.
In fact, the top four teams finished in the order they were ranked: Moundridge (19-1) in first, Little River (17-3) second, Hillsboro third (16-5) and Hesston fourth (9-11).
The Trojans took care of business in the first two rounds of pool play by defeating No. 6 Solomon, 25-18, 25-23, and No. 7 Canton-Galva, 25-17, 25-20.
That set up a pivotal face-off with Little River in Hillsboro’s final pool battle, with both teams at 2-0 and hoping to avoid Moundridge in the opening round of the four-team championship bracket.
The first game of the match remained close until midway through, when a Redskin surge took them from a 14-11 lead to a 22-14 advantage. The Trojans responded to a timeout by winning three of the next four points, but Little River held on for a 25-19 win.
In Game 2, the Redskins streaked to a 9-2 lead, but the Trojans stepped up their play and more or less maintained the margin at 13-5.
Then, after the Trojans won a rally point, JuliAnne Chisholm served for four more to spark a comeback that eventually tied the game at 15-15. With momentum in Hillsboro’s court, the Trojans went on to post a 25-22 win.
In the rubber game, it was the Trojans who jumped to the quick lead at 6-2. Little River rallied with four straight points to tie the score, then moved ahead 15-11.
But Hillsboro picked up steam and won seven of the next 10 points to tie the score at 18.
Little River won the next two points, then defended their slight lead down the stretch to claim a 25-22 win.
“I thought we really picked up our level of play against Little River and put ourselves into position to win,” coach Sandy Arnold said.
“We had one call that went against us in that third game that kind of set us back a little bit. It was only one point, but in a game of momentum that can make a big difference.
“I saw another side of my team that I really like to see-just picking up the intensity and playing at a higher level,” Arnold added. “They don’t have any excuses now for not playing at that level.”
As feared, the loss put Hillsboro against Moundridge in the opening round of bracket play, and the Wildcats showed why they are one of the best teams in the state.
The Trojans managed only flashes of competitiveness in a 25-15 loss in Game 1 and then played a bit better in a 25-18 loss in Game 2.
“I think they were a little disappointed in the way we finished pool play,” Arnold said of her team’s play against the Wildcats. “It took a little wind out of our sails.
“But I think there’s always that intimidation factor, whether we try to tell them that (Moundridge) is like any other team or not. They’re just tall-and filled out-and they play all the time and there’s that tradition there.
“I don’t know if we got caught up in that or not. We did play a little better in the second game.
“They’re just a good team.”
The loss put Hillsboro in the third-place match against Hesston, where the Trojans defeated their league rivals for the second time this season, 25-22, 25-18.
“I thought we picked ourselves up well,” Arnold said. “We were going in to win, there’s no reason not to. We also knew Hesston wasn’t going to roll over and die.
“I did think we had a little advantage because they had to play back-to-back. I thought they might be getting a little tired. I know we were tired.”
Chisholm and Frick were named to the 12-member all-tournament team. Emilie Gill represented Canton-Galva on the team.
The Eagles were 0-3 for the day and are 5-12 for the season.
Coming-Hillsboro was scheduled to take on Marion Tuesday (Oct. 4) at Brown Gymnasium in a couple of league matches. The result of those matches, as well as all of the Trojans’ Tuesday matches, will appear in this week’s Free Press Extra.