Done too soon

Hillsboro falls to Central Plains in sub-state championship; Marion suffers quarterfinal loss to Halstead

Don Ratzlaff / Free Press<p>Hillsboro senior Alex Ratz?laff focuses on handling the pass as coach Sandy Arnold and fellow senior Shannon Heiser focus on Ratzlaff during the climactic third set in the championship match against unbeaten Central Plains.
Don Ratzlaff / Free Press<p>Hillsboro senior Alex Ratz?laff focuses on handling the pass as coach Sandy Arnold and fellow senior Shannon Heiser focus on Ratzlaff during the climactic third set in the championship match against unbeaten Central Plains.
Hillsboro’s road ends one matchshort of state

by Don Ratzlaff

The Free Press

Hillsboro?s sometimes up-and-down volleyball team showed up in strong fashion at the Class 2A sub-state tournament in Moundridge Saturday, but for the first time in eight years, the Trojans will not advance to a state tournament.

Hillsboro?s best moment came in the second set of the championship match against the unbeaten and No. 1 ranked 2A team in Kansas, Central Plains (38-0).

After losing the first set 25-17, the Trojans played perhaps their finest volleyball of the entire season, dominating the mighty Oilers to the tune of 25-14.

Unfortunately, the Tro?jans were unable to maintain the magic in the deciding third set. Central Plains, an athletic team across the board with three players listed at 5-feet-11 and one at 5-10, took the lead at 2-1 and never relinquished it.

The lead slowly grew to its largest point at 25-13 when Central Plains scored the final point and secured a state berth at Emporia.

?I don?t understand how you can flip a switch, I really don?t,? coach Sandy Arnold said about the third set. ?How can you do the things you were doing, then stop doing things?knowing that the things you were doing will win.?

Arnold said in the end, Central Plains simply had too many weapons.

?They definitely have a lot of athletes, but it?s too bad we couldn?t put it together for two (sets). I wish in the first game we hadn?t waited so long to realize we could play with them. I think the first game would have been a little bit different.?

Hillsboro versus Central Plains seemed to be inevit?able from the start. Arnold said she was pleased with the way her team took care of business in the quarterfinals and semifinals.

The Trojans knocked off No. 7 Berean in the opener, 25-15, 25-17, and then No. 3 Canton-Galva in the semifinals, 25-17, 25-15.

?I felt like we would win, but it was more like ?let?s get these done and see if we can beat Central Plains,?? Arnold said. ?It wasn?t like we were looking past (the first two teams) by any means. We all knew that sometimes our team doesn?t show up and we could get beaten by a team that I felt we had the advantage over.?

Hillsboro, who came in as the No. 2 seed, completed its season with a record of 27-13.

Four seniors completed their high school careers, including Marah Franz, a first-year starter, and Tas Sanchez, who moved to Hillsboro prior to the start of school.

Two seniors, Alex Ratz?laff and Shannon Heiser, started the season as returning all-state hitters and were the team leaders on a largely inexperienced squad.

?I couldn?t ask for more from those two girls,? Arnold said. ?Shannon and Alex are just very volleyball-skilled, and a lot of that came from playing at a young age. Both had a great desire to be good at it.

?We?ll definitely miss them. They didn?t just hit the ball. They were there to pass and defend and serve.?

Arnold said she?s disappointed not to be going back to a state tournament again, but the Trojan coach already has one eye on the future.

?It will be interesting,? she said. ?We have a lot of girls returning with experience now. It will just depend which of them want to step up and really take over that leadership role.

?Someone will have to be able to terminate play when we attack. That all comes from how hard they work in the off-season.?

Janae Rempel / Free Press<p>Kirsten Hansen sends the ball over the net against Halstead. Marion lost a 2-1 sub-state quarterfinal battle against the Dragons Saturday, closing the chapter on the most successful volleyball season in Marion school history. The Warriors went 33-4.
Janae Rempel / Free Press<p>Kirsten Hansen sends the ball over the net against Halstead. Marion lost a 2-1 sub-state quarterfinal battle against the Dragons Saturday, closing the chapter on the most successful volleyball season in Marion school history. The Warriors went 33-4.
Top-seeded Marion stunned by Halstead at SES

by Janae Rempel

The Free Press

The Marion volleyball team suffered a premature ending to its season by losing a three-set heartbreaker to Halstead in the Class 3A sub-state quarterfinals at Southeast of Saline Saturday.

Marion was the No. 1 seed in the tournament with a 33-3 record, pitting them against the No. 8 Dragons (10-26), whom the Warriors had defeated, 2-0, in September.

Perhaps foreshadowing how the afternoon would play out, Marion fell behind from the start of Set 1. Warrior errors were responsible for Halstead?s first five points. However, a kill by Shelby Felvus ignited a 4-0 Warrior run to give Marion the lead, 12-9, and the Warriors never trailed again en-route to a 25-17 victory.

Set 2 began much like the first, with Warrior attack errors giving the Dragons an early lead. Marion remained competitive, though, tying the game at 8 with an ace serve by Kourtney Hansen. From there, the Dragons gained distance with a 4-0 run and maintained the advantage.

With Marion trailing 22-16 late in the contest, Marion embarked on a 7-1 rally, sparked by a Marshelle Mermis block and fueled by Marissa Jacobson, who sandwiched a pair of kills with a block and polished the run with a block that tied the game at 23. However, a Halstead kill followed by a service ace sealed the Dragons? 25-23 victory.

Set 3 was a back-and-forth battle, as the teams remained within two points of each other the duration of the set. The teams locked heads in a tie 17 times.

Jacobson gave Marion a 10-9 lead with consecutive kills, and the teams traded points. Marion led, 23-21, late in the set. Halstead, however, scored the set?s final four points, tying the game at 23, then taking the lead with a service ace. A second ace serve sealed the Dragons? 25-23 victory.

Coach Brea Campbell said the Warriors took the foot off the gas, so to speak, after their first-set victory.

?I think we kind of just slacked back a little bit, (thinking) ?Okay we?ll win this one easily,?? she said. ?Can?t do that, and that came back to us pretty quickly.?

With the loss, Marion concluded the season with a 33-4 record, the best in school history. Campbell said she encouraged her players to focus on the positives of such a successful season, despite Saturday?s outcome.

?Granted, it?s not what we wanted to happen, not what we thought was going to happen, but they can?t think about that game too much,? she said. ?We did have a 33-4 season, which is incredible. I told them, ?Marion?s never had a team reach 30 wins before,? so they can?t sit and be upset about that (loss) too much.?

As Campbell?s first year of coaching comes to an end, she had only praise for her team.

?I?m so happy that these are the girls that I got to coach,? she said. ?Every single one of them was awesome, and I couldn?t have asked for a better group of seniors, either, because they came out and they showed very strong leadership roles, and I?m very proud of them.?

Marion will graduate six seniors: Kirsten Hansen, Erika Hess, Marshelle Mermis, Elizabeth Meyer, Bailey Robson and Emily Schneider.