Hillsboro earns return trip to Class 3A state volleyball tournament

The Hillsboro volleyball team accomplished a major goal Saturday — and savored a bit of revenge in the process — by beating Sedgwick in two games to claim the Class 3A sub-state tournament title at Halstead and a berth in the state tournament next week in Salina.

Four days after the Cardinals snatched the sub-state No. 1 seed from Hillsboro by sweeping both games of their match at Brown Gymnasium, the Trojans returned the favor at Halstead, 25-14, 25-22.

Hillsboro, seeded No. 2 at Halstead, comfortably dispatched No. 7 Marion in the first round, 25-11, 25-13 to end the Warriors’ season with a 14-23 record.

But in the semifinals match against fellow Central Kansas League member Haven, the Trojans struggled to find their rhythm. They never led by more than three points until the very end of Game 1, winning 25-21.

In Game 2, the Trojans struggled even more, letting an early lead slip away. Hillsboro trailed by as many as four points at 13-9, then rallied to build a lead as large as 21-18. The game was tied later at 22 and then 23 before Haven claimed the final two points and a 25-23 win.

But something happened between games 2 and 3. Hills­boro came out in Game 3 on fire, building a 6-1 lead at the start, and never backing down on the way to a relatively easy 25-9 win.

That fire continued into the finals against Sedgwick. With the score tied at 9 in Game 1, the Trojans scored seven straight points with Maci Schlehuber serving and never looked back on the way to a 25-14 win against the stunned Cardinals.

Sedgwick, who came into the tournament with a 35-1 record, regrouped for Game 2 and overcame an early deficit to tie the game at 10, then edged into the lead until a kill by Alex Ratzlaff finally tied the game again at 18. Sedgwick would lead one last time at 21-20. But after a Trojan timeout, Hillsboro reeled off five of the next six points to claim the tournament title, 25-22.

With the win, Hillsboro will enter pool play in Salina with a 37-3 record — which may be good enough to earn the No. 1 seed (pairings will be released later this weekend). Pool play begins Friday with the championship bracket following on Saturday.

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