Facing all four state-ranked teams in the eight-team tournament field, the Hillsboro volleyball team battled to a fourth-place finish at the Southeast of Saline Invitational Saturday.
The Trojans began pool play on a strong note, knocking off the host school, ranked eighth in Class 3A, 25-15, 17-25, 27-25.
“I knew when we were warming up that it was do-able,” coach Sandy Arnold said of the win. “I just had a feeling that if we thought we could do it, maybe that would help.”
Arnold said her team started slowly, but improved as play continued.
“We probably played one of our best matches so far this year, as far as being on the attack more than being on the defense,” she said. “That makes a huge difference. You have to be able to defend, but if you can make the other team have to play defense more, it’s better.”
The Trojans came from behind in the third set to claim the win.
“I was proud of the way they held their composure because it was definitely a back-and-forth kind of thing,” Arnold said.
In the second round, the Trojans knocked off Salina South from Class 6A, 25-16, 25-11.
“This year they were definitely down,” Arnold said of South. “I was surprised, because last year they gave us a run for our money. They had a lot of mis-hits, free balls and balls that hit tape.”
Pool play ended with a matchup against Abilene, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 4A-Div. I. The Trojans struggled to compete, losing 25-2, 25-12.
“I think we were beat from the start, and I’m not really sure why,” Arnold said. “We couldn’t pass, but I’m not sure (Abilene’s) serves were any different from other teams. We just struggled with that. You end up giving them free balls and they have three or four girls who can hit.”
With a 2-1 pool record, the Trojans advanced to the championship semifinals and faced Emporia, ranked eighth in Class 5A. Hillsboro came up on the short end of a 25-9, 25-10 drubbing.
“They have several girls who can hit, and when you run into that, they get you out of system—it’s really hard to hit back at them,” Arnold said. “We still are working to improve our attack, whether it’s how hard we hit or where we put the ball or how we use the block to try to score.”
Emporia went on to win the tournament title by defeating Abilene.
In the third-place game, the Trojans lost to Concordia, ranked sixth in Class 3A, 25-13, 25-14, to finish the day with a 2-3 overall record.
“We started fine, but they had a couple of servers that got to us—we struggled with passing,” Arnold said.
“In the second game, we played really well. We actually were up, then we lost our lead. I don’t know if you chalk that up to not having someone who can really step up and take control.
“We just did not do a very good job of executing what we knew we had to do.”
Pratt—Hillsboro’s 2-5 week began Sept. 6 with a return trip to Pratt for a double-dual with Douglass and the host school.
Hillsboro came up short against both teams. After losing 25-25, 25-20 to Douglass in the opener, Pratt gained a revenge win over the Trojans, 25-16, 20-25, 25-15. Hillsboro had defeated the Greenbacks on their home court during the league’s preseason tournament three day earlier.
“I was disappointed in our play against Douglass and Pratt, mostly because I didn’t feel we played to our potential,” Arnold said.
Coming—Hillsboro, now 5-8 for the season, was scheduled to make its first home-court appearance, but it won’t be an easy debut as the Trojans face two more state-ranked teams in league play. Kingman is ranked No. 2 in Class 4A-Div. II, and Hesston is ranked No. 2 in Class 3A.
“It’s going to be a tough night,” coach Sandy Arnold said. “We’ll have to be up to the challenge. There’s nothing we can do about the matches we’ve played. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes and learn from our progress.”
The Trojans will then travel to Hoisington Sept. 20 to take on Lyons and Hoisington in league play.