The Hillsboro volleyball team showed it will be a force to be reckoned with again this fall as the Trojans won their third consecutive Central Kansas League Preseason Tournament title with a 5-0 record.
The defending CKL?and Class 2A champions?who ranked No. 1 in the Kansas Volleyball Associa?tion preseason poll?dropped only two sets all day.
?It?s never easy to do it again,? coach Sandy Arnold said of achieving a repeat title. ?So when you do, it feels kind of good.?
This is the first season for the CKL as a 12-school league, although newcomers Hoisington and Larned competed in last year?s preseason tournament as pro?visional members.
The 12 squads formed four pools of three teams to start the day. The Trojans, awarded the No. 1 seed as the league?s defending champion, squared off against No. 12 Kingman in the opener of Pool A?and survived an early scare from the much-improved Eagles.
Showing normal the normal shakiness of a season debut, Hills?boro slipped past the Eagles in the first set, 25-20, but had to fight for its life before claiming a 26-24 win in the second set. King?man went on to place fifth for the day.
?I?ll take some credit for that sub-par performance,? Arnold said. ?We hadn?t been through our rotation very much because we were still trying to decide who was playing where, and what skills we needed to do to be ready.
?If we can play poorly, like we did against Kingman ?which I thought was an improved team and still come out on top, I think that says a lot for the girls.?
The Trojans clinched the pool title with an easy 25-14, 25-8 over Lyons.
In the eight-team championship bracket, Hillsboro looked solid in a 25-20, 25-8 win over Smoky Valley, then followed that with a dominating 25-16 win over Pratt in the first set of their semifinal matchup.
But the Trojans seemed to lose focus at the start of the second set, falling behind 0-6. After HHS battled back to a tie at 9-9 on a kill by Lakyn Johnson, neither team led by more than a point until Pratt pushed a late lead to 19-17.
The powerful serving of Alex Ratzlaff enabled the Trojans to swing the lead back their way at 21-19, but Pratt grabbed the lead at 22-21 before achieving a 25-23 win.
In the final set, the Trojans recovered their swagger and pounded the Greenbacks, 25-14.
The championship game against Sterling followed a similar trend. The Trojans appeared to be on their way to a comfortable win after defeating the Black Bears in the opening set, 25-16.
In the second set, the Trojans were leading 10-6 when they suddenly stepped into the Twi?light Zone. Over the next two serving cycles, Sterling built a 15-11 lead with the help of several Trojan mental errors and went on to win, 25-19.
In the third and deciding set, Hills?boro fell behind 3-1, before a kill by Emily Jost and two by Ratzlaff gave the Trojans the lead for good at 4-3. Hills?boro enjoyed its largest lead at 11-5 and went on to nail down the title with a 25-21 victory.
?We learned we have some mental toughness things we need to work on,? Arnold said. ?But we could have folded pretty easily after the way we played Pratt and Sterling in the second game. Our mental toughness is there, I just wish we didn?t have to go to three (sets) to get it.?