As improbable as it seemed at the start of the season, Hillsboro?s young volleyball team came of age Saturday and earned a trip to the Class 3A state volleyball by winning its regional at Council Grove.
With only two seniors on the roster (Allie Faul and Hayley Jiral) and led by a sophomore hitter (Tena Loewen), the Trojans, seeded No. 2 coming in, claimed the regional title with a 25-15, 22-25, 25-14 win over No. 1 seeded Burlington.
It was no easy path for Hillsboro, with all three of its matches going the maxium three games. Hillsboro opened with a 25-15, 21-25, 25-20 victory over the host school, then defeated Southeast of Saline in the semifinals, 25-18, 21-25, 25-19.
Burlington, who finished the season with a 31-8 record, got to the finals by defeating Sterling in three games and Marion in two games. Marion defeated Lyons in its opening round.
Hillsboro dominated Burlington in Game 1, building the lead to nine points at 20-11, then maintaining that spread to the the end. Game 2 looked to be a repeat as the Trojans led by as many as eight points at 12-4. But Burlington climbed back into contention with a 5-0 run and took the lead for the first time at 16-15 before winning by four.
In the rubber match, Hills?boro jumped to a 4-0 lead, but Burlington kept it close until 16-13. At that point, Hillsboro kicked up its game one more notch and built its lead to the game- and match-ending margin of 11 points. Tena Loewen had nine kills in Game 3 alone.
The Trojans will take a 30-10 record to Salina on Friday. Pairings and starting times will be announced later this week.
For Trojan head coach Sandy Arnold, this will be her fifth state-tournament appearance in her seven-year tenure at HHS.