HHS volleyball settles for third at home tourney

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HHSvbHTIConSprSammy979

An up-and-down match against Circle in the semifinals ended Hillsboro?s hopes for one more rematch with Pratt and the chance for a championship plaque Saturday at the Hillsboro Invita?tional.

After losing the semifinal match to the Thunder?birds, 17-25, 25-12, 25-14, the Trojans settled for third place by beating Minneapolis for the second time that day, 25-16, 25-18.

Pratt, meanwhile, completed a perfect 5-0 day and went on to win the title by sweeping Circle in two games 25-19, 25-18. The Central Kansas League champions entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed and finished the day with a sparkling 32-1 record.

Hillsboro, now 29-6 for the season, had breezed through pool play with wins over Conway Springs (25-18, 25-9), Sterling (25-11, 25-20) and Minneapolis (25-13, 25-9).

But in the semifinals against the fourth-seeded Thunderbirds (28-10) became a Twilight Zone moment for the Trojans. Hills?boro was either cold or hot. In Game 1 the Trojans led 13-11 before the Thunderbirds caught up and slowly pulled away for the 8-point margin.

In Game 2, the Trojans dominated, taking their first lead at 6-5 and never relinquishing it on the way to the 10-point final cushion. But in the rubber game, Hillsboro trailed from the start and never found the spark to launch a comeback.

Coach Sandy Arnold was at a loss to explain the odd turn.

?I had heard good things about Circle, so I was a little concerned,? she said. ?But the moment we started playing them, I knew they were a team we could beat.

?I really don?t know what happened. I don?t know if it was something I said in between games, I don?t know if they let up, I don?t know if Circle just came out strong and so we fell apart. I really don?t have any good answers.

?It?s one of those things that makes a coach want to pull their hair out.?

Arnold she and her team were set on playing Pratt one more time this season.

?Maybe we were looking ahead,? Arnold said. ?Or maybe we were thinking if we don?t win we won?t get to play them and we tightened up. But that?s not really a good excuse.?

Whatever the issue, it cleared up as quickly as it settled in. The Trojans returned to their pool-play form and controlled the match against Minneapolis for third place.

?I was very pleased with our pool play,? Arnold said. ?I thought we played very sharp. I just thought this was a tournament we could compete in. I don?t know what happened.?

Nickerson?The Trojans proved the adage last Tuesday that it?s hard to beat a good team three times in a season, coming up short in a 25-18, 23-25, 24-26 showdown with Halstead for second place in the Central Kansas League.

?It would have been better if it had been the other way around,? coach Sandy Arnold said of the outcome. ?We had our chance to do it, and we just didn?t.?

Both teams came into the triangular with 6-1 league records on the final night of league play. Both teams defeated Nickerson, Hillsboro by a 25-10, 25-17 score, that same evening.

In the feature matchup, the Trojan were on their game in the opening set, limiting the damage of the Dragons? standout 6-foot hitter, Aubrie VanSteenburg.

?We did a lot of the little things right,? Arnold said.

But in games 2 and 3, lapses on the little things led to big disappointment.

?We had a few mental lapses with coverage, or with defense, or with putting the ball in a certain hole to score, or blocking?things you cannot forget to do,? Arnolds said. ?This time of year, you can?t lose the mental part of the game?and we can?t do it multiple times.?

In the third and deciding game, the Trojans missed four serves, including three in a row. Even so, they were within one point of victory at 24-23 before Halstead rallied for three straight points for the win.

Coming?Scheduled for a triangular with Sedgwick and host team Hutch Trinity in the regular-season finale on Tuesday, Hillsboro may get a chance to meet Halstead for a fourth time when both teams compete Saturday at the Class 3A sub-state tournament at Marion.

Also battling for a state berth are Reming?ton, ranked fifth in 3A, Sedg?wick, Salina Sacred Heart, Southeast of Saline and the host team, Marion.

Arnold said it?s a challenging field, top to bottom.

?We?re going to play somebody good right off the bat,? she said. ?I don?t even know if the eighth seed is going to be bad.?

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