ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
On a night fraught with opportunity for both accomplishment and distraction, the Hillsboro High School volleyball took care of business and control of the league-title race by sweeping both matches from Marion Tuesday in Brown Gymnasium.
Marion came into Brown not only as the Trojans’ intra-county rival, but also as co-leader with Hillsboro in the Eastern Division of the Mid-Central Activities Association at 5-1.
Add to the mix that the Trojans were saluting five seniors in their last non-tournament home appearance of the season, and the table was set for trouble.
But it never developed as HHS pulled away from the Warriors, 25-15, 25-18, in the first match and 25-15, 25-16 in the second one.
“I was pretty pleased,” Hillsboro coach Sandy Arnold said of her team’s play. “I didn’t think we messed around too long. The times that we did get into trouble were when we were on the defensive. Once we understand that we need to hit at them, we seem to play a whole lot better.”
Game 1 of the early match set a pattern that endured all evening-a close contest in the early going, with the Trojans taking control down the stretch.
In the opener, Marion led as late as 13-10. But a Trojan rally point ignited a 12-0 run behind the serving of Jenny Whisenhunt to fuel the eventual 25-15 victory.
In Game 2, the Warriors jumped in front 5-0 and still led 16-14 entering the home stretch. But a 6-0 run with Jessica Klose serving grew into an 11-2 surge that carried the Trojans to the 25-18 win.
In the late match, the two teams were tied at 10 in Game 1 when the Trojans took control on a 5-0 run with JuliAnne Chisholm serving.
The Warriors ended the streak with a rally point, but Hillsboro then launched a 7-1 surge to bring the Trojans to the brink of victory at 22-12.
Marion scored three more points before Hillsboro nailed down the 25-15 win on a dink by Chisholm, who pounded the ball on attack all night long for a team-high 16 kills.
The final game of the evening stayed true to form. With the score tied at 7-7, Hillsboro took the lead for good with a rally point on a mis-hit by Marion, followed by a block point by Hillsboro’s Tina Frick and a kill by Amy Neufeld for a 10-7 advantage.
Marion was still in contention at 17-13 following a kill by Erin Carr. But a Warrior mis-hit sparked a 5-0 Trojan spurt that put Hillsboro ahead by nine with only three more points needed for victory. A kill by Laura Skiles minutes later ended the evening with the 25-16 Hillsboro win.
“I really don’t know how to stop those rallies,” Marion coach Kara Chisholm said. “I told the girls in the locker room that when they reach that point, it’s up to them, and they really have to find out what’s in them because there’s nothing any coach can say.
“Our passes weren’t that bad, but we didn’t have just one thing that we could identify during the game that we could say, ‘This is what you have to do.'”
The Trojans’ sweep put them firmly in the driver’s seat for the divisional/league title at 7-1 with only two matches to play Tuesday (Oct. 11) against last-place Halstead (3-18 overall). A report of those matches will appear in this week’s Free Press Extra.
“We did talk about it and I knew it was in the back of their mind,” Arnold said of the league race. “I think they’re pretty excited that we got that part of it accomplished.”
To claim a share of the title, Marion, at 5-3, would have had to sweep second-place Hesston (6-2) on Tuesday and have Hillsboro (17-5 overall) lose both matches to the Dragons.
Prior to the second match, five Trojan seniors were honored for their contributions to the team: Emily Bebermeyer, Tiffany Knaak, Jessica Kelly, Laura Lindsay and Laura Skiles.
“I’ve been so pleased with their leadership,” Arnold said, noting that most of her seniors stepped into new positions and roles this year. “Each one has contributed a lot to our success.”
Coming-The Trojans (17-5) will host their 12th annual invitational tournament on Saturday. Pool play will begin at 9 a.m. in Brown Gymnasium.