The Hillsboro High School volleyball girls became the 2A State Champions on Saturday after defeating Smith Center in the finals. The Trojans were runner-up to the same team the year before making this win even sweeter.
The Hillsboro volleyball girls took the opportunity to redeem themselves on Saturday when they beat Smith Center in the state finals. The team lost to Smith Center last year and became runner-ups, but this year the Trojans weren’t settling for second place.
The team has had an incredible season full of wins.
“Going into the state tournament we had only played a few 2A teams so we did not know much about any of the teams in our pool. Luckily we got film from other teams and had a few days to look at them and plan for the teams we would be seeing. We used our practice time to go over strategies and improve our own skill sets needed to compete and beat each team,” said Coach Sandy Arnold.
The Trojans worked hard to win State on Saturday.
In pool play, the Trojans defeated St. Mary’s-Colgan 25-16, 25-9. The team went on to defeat Jefferson County 25-21, 25-18 and then ended the first day of pool play defeating Meade 25-11, 25-19.
“Our first match was against St. Mary’s-Colgan who we had actually played at state last year. St. Mary’s-Colgan was strong in the middle with some tall hitters and blockers. The block presented a roadblock for us at first but then our hitters went to work with different attack shots and we found our way around it,” said Arnold.
Arnold explained that they knew from scouting reports that Jefferson County had a great deal of size and the Trojans would need to be aggressive in their serving and offense in order to keep Jefferson County out of system so they couldn’t get a lot of hits against the Trojans.
“We picked up our intensity in this match. Our back row communicated well, helping our hitters find the holes against the big block and forced them to play defense,” said Arnold.
Meade was not particularly tall, but they were a very scrappy team who kept the ball off the floor, making the rallies longer.
“We had to attack several times in one service term before terminating the play. Luckily we have a very strong team of 12 that we practice with every day that challenge us with long rallies like that in drills so it was not anything we weren’t used to. We talked in practice many times about how although we’d like to win off the serve – if we don’t we still want to win the point later in the rally because winning the sideout war at any time is what counts,” said Arnold.
For the semi-finals, Hillsboro defeated Inman 25-17, 25-19.
Inman was second in their pool – but barely. Their match with Smith Center in pool play was super close. They had beaten undefeated Sedgwick in sub-state finals to get to state and played very well on Friday.
Inman was very strong in the middle due to an amazing freshman who had been tearing people up with her hitting and blocking.
Arnold said, “The first 10 points or so of both games in this match were back and forth and then we started to pull away when our serving, hitting and blocking really kicked in. We got through their block, attacked different areas of the court and made them play defense. Our block also really affected their hitters causing them to roll and tip and give us easier balls to defend. Our serving also affected their offense as they could not get their best attack on the ball.”
For the finals, Hillsboro defeated Smith Center 25-12, 25-13.
The girls went in ready to win for the final match against the same opponent from last year’s state final match – Smith Center. Smith Center has a strong setter who will get the ball to her hitters from anywhere.
“We focused on stopping their outside hitters. We felt like the best way to do this was to attack and make them play defense. We did a great job of using their block to score points. We also got around the block hitting sharp or off the top of it. Of course, this only happens if we pass the ball well and get the set out where the hitters can do something with it – and we did both,” said Arnold. “The thing that probably stood out the most in our two matches, however, was our blocking. Without a doubt, it was our best blocking of the season! We shut down their hitters and frustrated them – again causing them to give us easier balls to defend. When they did get over the block we played some excellent defense – allowing us to attack again! It was a little sweet revenge winning this match after last year’s loss.”
Arnold said she felt that on Friday the team was a little flat, distracted and did not play their best volleyball. On Saturday, however, it was a different story.
“Our girls were intense and focused and I couldn’t have asked them to follow the game plan any better. They were enthusiastic and played with a passion and desire that couldn’t be denied. Everyone brought their special skill and more and that is what allowed us to win it all,” said Arnold. “Zaylee Werth and Savannah Shahan were beasts on the front row with their attacking. I think their power and size is quite intimidating. Each has developed an incredible array of attacks and they are smart and listen to their defense call their shots.”
Kirsten Kluver does her job quietly on the front row, but her play spoke loudly Saturday as she lit it up with blocking and shut down and frustrated the opposing hitters. Anslee Brewer, D’myia Cox and Kingzley Ratzlaff also contributed to the block party, assisting in many of the blocks.
Kori Arnold jumpstarted the offense with her passing. She reads the court extremely well, helping her hitters find the holes and recognizing the attacks from opponents. Her defense keeps the play alive allowing us to attack again. And when Ella Suderman took the first ball, Kori made sure we still got a good swing by leaving it out to the hitters.
“Ella Suderman was a workhorse setter for us. We ran a 5-1 all season long. She set every ball and worked her tail off to make the ball better for her hitters. At the state tournament, Ella surpassed the 2,000-assist mark! She hustles to get every ball and is also solid defensively,” said Arnold.
Keeley Brewer and Makenna Reed also played key roles in passing and defensive game all season long. Kori and Ratzlaff also led the team in serving aces this season.
“I can’t even tell you how proud I am of these girls – all 12 of them (freshmen Lauryn Vogt and Talia Jost rounded out the crew). Our focus the last couple of weeks has been “be the best at getting better” by doing the little things better than any other team. Our practices are competitive and purposeful and I feel very fortunate to have such a great group who work hard every day, have great chemistry, and make each other better. I have been coaching these girls since they were in 2nd grade and they are very special to my heart. Thank you ladies for an amazing and unforgettable season,” said Arnold.