Breakthrough- HHS wins its own tournament for the first time in 11 years

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
School volleyball team finally feasted on home cooking Saturday as it claimed the championship of the 13th annual Trojan Invitational for the first time in 11 years.

Sweeping all five of its matches in the minimum two games, the Trojans, now 29-1 for the season and ranked No. 2 in Class 3A, nailed down the elusive title with a convincing 25-21, 25-13 defeat of tradition-strong Conway Springs in the championship match.

Ironically, it took a win over Conway Springs to give HHS its last tournament title in 1995.

“I think it’s a huge confidence-builder for us because we’ve been wanting to see how we would play against tougher teams,” said coach Sandy Arnold of Saturday’s accomplishment.

“I feel like we had a pretty good chance to see that.”

The Trojans climbed out of pool play with wins over Marion, 25-16, 25-8, Conway Springs, 25-17, 25-18, and Sterling, 25-15, 25-19.

Their semifinals match with Hoisington, a Mid-Central Activities Association foe who came in as the No. 3 team in Class 3A at 24-2, may have been Hillsboro’s toughest matchup of the day.

Seeking to avenge a loss to the Trojans in the finals of the league’s preseason tournament, the Cardinals put up a hard fight in Game 1 and led as late as 23-22.

But a kill by Chelsea Bebermeyer, a block by Tina Frick and a kill by JuliAnne Chisholm resulted in three straight points for the 25-23 victory.

Whether the loss took the wind from beneath the Cardinals’ wings at the end of a long and very competitive day, Game 2 proved to be anti-climactic in comparison. The Trojans never trailed en route to a 25-16 win.

“We went into (the Hoisington match) knowing they would be wanting to get back at us for earlier in the season,” Arnold said. “They’re going to get some good hits and you can’t let that deflate you-you just can’t let them do it continuously.”

Hoisington came back to take third place, avenging a loss to Minneapolis (seeded second at 24-2) earlier in the season and one earlier in pool play with a 23-25, 25-21, 25-21 victory.

Meanwhile, the Trojans had their hands full with Conway Springs in the title match. This flock of Cardinals maintained a lead through most of Game 1.

When freshman Dakota Kaufman scored on a tip, Hillsboro finally pulled into a tie at 17-17. It was the first tie since the game was knotted at 2.

Amy Neufeld gave Hillsboro its first lead with another tip. Conway then tied the game one last time at 18 before another tip point by Kaufman gave the Trojans the lead for good.

Following a similar theme as in the semifinals, Hillsboro had a relatively easy time with Conway in Game 2 of the finals, jumping to a 3-0 start and never relinquishing the lead.

Leading relatively comfortably at 19-12, the Trojans launched a 5-0 run behind the serving of Amanda Bina to seal what ended as a 25-13 victory.

Frick registered four kills to account for Hillsboro’s final four points of the match.

“We knew we had already beaten them (earlier in the tournament),” Arnold said about Conway. “It was a mental thing again. You’ve got to make sure you don’t overlook them because they have some quality players.

“I told (my players) if you want to be the best you have to beat the best, and sometimes that means twice.

“I think it said a lot for the girls to beat both Hoisington and Conway twice in a year, because they have great programs and tradition,” she added. “Sometimes the name on the shirt scares us as much as anything. So it was nice to see us get over that a little bit.”

In addition to the power play of Trojan front-liners Frick and Chisholm, Arnold praised the contributions of Jessica Klose and Jennifer Whisenhunt on defense and Amy Neufeld and Kaufman on offense.

“Everyone’s going to focus on Tina and Juli, so we have to have other girls step up-and I challenged the rest of the team with that,” Arnold said. “I’m excited by what I saw. I hope we keep it up.”

Following its loss to Hillsboro to start the day, Marion ended its tournament experience in pool play with a 25-23, 25-20 loss to Sterling and a 25-13, 25-11 loss to Conway Springs. The three losses put the Warriors at 0-24 for the season.

Coming-Hillsboro and Marion will be back in Brown Gymnasium on Saturday as the Trojans host their Class 3A sub-state tournament.

As the No. 1 and No. 8 seeds, respectively, the two teams will square off for the fifth time this season in the opening round, which will begin at 2 p.m.

Joining the Trojans and Warriors in the single-elimination quest for a state tournament berth are Haven, Halstead, Hesston, Hutchinson Trinity, Lyons and Remington.

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