HHS wins another sub-state title; state pairings announced

 

Hillsboro High School: 2014 Class 3A sub-state champions

 

The Hillsboro High School volleyball team again proved it can take the heat, outlasting seven other schools in perhaps the hottest gymnasium in Kansas Saturday to claim another Class 3A sub-state championship and earn the right to pursue its fourth consecutive state title.

Playing in non-air-conditioned Robert C. Brown Gymnasium, where the indoor temperature hovered near triple digits on an unseasonably warm late-October Saturday, Hillsboro marched to the title with wins over Lyons (25-7, 25-13) and Beloit (25-14, 25-16) before knocking off Southeast of Saline in the finals (25-18, 25-23, 25-14).

In the opening game, top-seeded Hillsboro raced to an 8-0 lead in the first set against Lyons, who came in with a record of 10-24, and kept the Lions in single digits to the end. Lyons was in contention at 14-9 in Set 2, but a pair of kills by Alex Ratzlaff sparked a six-point run behind the serving of Julie Sinclair to fuel the Trojans to a 12-point victory.

The semifinals turned into a Trojan-fest with three of the four team sharing the same mascot. The Beloit Trojans (27-8) battled HHS evenly in the first set before Hillsboro took the lead for good at 9-8 on a kill by Emily Jost. Beloit was still within 17-13 when a kill by Ratzlaff ignited a six-point scoring run with Ratzlaff serving and contributing three aces.

In the second set, Hills -boro took an early 5-1 lead, but Beloit remained close and pulled to within 18-16 near the end. After Hillsboro achieved a side-out, Lakyn Johnson stepped in and served the rest of the way for the nine-point victory.

The championship match featured two Trojan squads that had faced each other earlier in the season at the Southeast of Saline Invita?tional. The two teams remained close in the opening set. But with the score 18-14, Hillsboro took control with a 7-4 finish.

Hillsboro?s only stutter-step of the day came in Set 2. The home team led from the start until a brief loss of focus turned a 15-11 lead into a 16-17 deficit. The set tied five times after that, but Hillsboro never regained the lead and ended up losing by two points.

Hillsboro was never seriously threatened in the third and deciding set. Whether the visitors finally withered in the heat or the home team finally seized its destiny, Hillsboro slowly but steadily built a lead from 4-4 to the final 10-point margin at the end.

Hillsboro can now look to its ninth state tournament appearance in the 10-year tenure of coach Sandy Arnold. The Trojans have won three state titles in a row — 3A titles in 2011 and 2012 followed by a 2A title last fall — and will be looking for a fourth straight when they compete at Emporia?s White Auditorium when pool play begins on Friday.

Following are the state pool pairings for Friday.

POOL 1

Douglass (36-2) vs. SE-Cherokee (19-9), 3:30 p.m.; Wellsville (35-5) vs. Lakin (31-9), 4:30; Douglass vs. Lakin, 5:30; Wellsville vs. SE-Cherokee, 6:30; Lakin vs. SE-Cherokee, 7:30; Douglass vs. Wellsville, 8:30.

POOL 2

Hillsboro (36-3) vs. Nemaha Central (32-11), 3:30 p.m.; Hesston (35-3) vs. Silver Lake (30-9), 4:30; Hillsboro vs. Silver Lake, 5:30; Hesston vs. Nemaha Central, 6:30; Silver Lake vs. Nemaha Central, 7:30; Hillsboro vs. Hesston, 8:30.

For what it’s worth, Hillsboro?s pool contains three of the top four teams ranked in Class 3A by the Kansas Volleyball Association: 1. Silver Lake, 2. Hillsboro, 4. Hesston.

In the other pool, Douglass is ranked third, Wellsville eighth.

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