The Hillsboro Trojans celebrate the championship point against Jefferson County North to secure the Class 2A state volleyball championship. On the court are (clockwise from left) Lakyn Johnson, Alex Ratzlaff, Maddie Duerksen, Emily Jost, Addie Lackey and Danae Bina. Adding their support from the bench are (from left) Shannon Heiser, Bradli Nowak, Taylor Vogt, Darcy Heinrichs and Shelley Arnold.Different class. Different location. Same result.
The Hillsboro volleyball program claimed its third consecutive state title Saturday with a two-set sweep of Jefferson County North at White Auditorium in Emporia.
Coming into the tournament with two consecutive 3A titles and a No. 1 ranking in 2A, the Trojans lived up to the privilege and challenge of being the tournament favorite by claiming its first 2A championship.
?I think the biggest thing for me this year was when we dropped from 3A to 2A, the expectations just skyrocketed even higher?almost to the point where people thought it should be easy,? coach Sandy Arnold said.
?I didn?t want my kids to feel that pressure because it just makes it worse for them,? she added. ?It was more, let?s just go play?not be overconfident, not be under-confident, but make sure our focus is right (for each game).?
The Trojan championship team holds the plaque and signals their ?three-peat? accomplishment: Coach Sandy Arnold is seated in front; behind her are, first row (from left), Alex Ratz?laff, Taylor Vogt, Danae Bina, Maddi Duerk??sen, Addie Lackey; back row, assistant coach Collette Haslett, Darcy Heinrichs, Julie Sinclair, Emily Jost, Shelley Arnold, Lakyn Johnson, Shannon Heiser, Bradli Nowak and assistant coach Jill Hein.Pool play?Hills?boro qualified for the semifinals Fri?day with a 3-0 record in pool play. The Trojans took care of No. 8 Meade (18-18) in the first matchup, 25-17, 25-6, then defeated No. 5 Jeffer?son County North (34-8), 25-23, 24-18.
In the last game of the night against No. 4 Mission Valley (32-7), Hillsboro won the first, 25-14, then hit a speed bump in Set 2.
The Trojans took an early lead, but an 8-0 serving run by Kylie Coble?supported by the strong hitting of Jade Hodge and Allison Zerbe?vaulted the Vikings from a 19-16 deficit into a 24-19 lead.
The 25-20 final forced a deciding third set, where Mission Valley succumbed to a refocused Trojan team by a 25-13 margin.
?I?don?t know if some of that was a letdown on our part, that we thought we had it,? Arnold said of the lost set. ?It was late, and maybe we were thinking ahead. We probably got a little comfortable.?
Bracket play?On Satur?day, Hillsboro trailed in the first set of its semifinals match with No. 2 seeded Smith Center (36-4), before taking an 18-17 lead on a kill by Addie Lackey.
The set was tied again at 21-21 before Lackey delivered another kill off a Smith Center block. The Trojans finally nailed down the 25-22 win on a kill by Alex Ratz?laff.
The Trojans had an easier time in the second set, posting a 25-17 win to secure a berth in the finals against pool-play foe Jefferson Coun?ty North.
?We knew we needed to be focused because it?s hard to beat a good team two times in a row,? Arnold said about the rematch. ?I always try to tell the girls that if we prepare, we?ll be OK. We made a few adjustments after playing them the first time.?
Alex Ratzlaff hits past the block attempt by Jefferson County North?s Heather Polson as Shannon Heiser (27) and Addie Lackey (13) position themselves to respond.It was a close battle in the first set, but Hillsboro began to separate from the Char?gers when Ratzlaff stepped in to serve at 18-18. The sophomore served for the next six points to put the Trojans on the brink of victory at 24-19. Lackey then delivered a kill for a 25-19 triumph.
The momentum clearly was in Hillsboro?s favor, but the Chargers kept pace in the early going of Set 2. With the score 17-13, Lakyn John?son served for four consecutive points to put the state title within grasp.
From there, Hillsboro completed its year-long mission with a 25-17 victory to the delight of a solid throng of Trojan fans.
Three-peat?While ?three-peat? was a common theme as awards were distributed, Arnold said she was more comfortable thinking about the accomplishment as achieving three separate and unique titles.
?There?s something special about each one of them,? she said. ?2011 was the first one, 2012 was to repeat at that level, and this year it was 2A. They?re all unique, and the players are unique. The players on those teams made them different.?
Seniors Addie Lackey and Danae Bina and sophomore Alex Ratzlaff were named to the all-tournament team.
?Addie has really picked it up in the last few weeks,? Arnold said. ?I don?t know if that was due to just having more confidence, but she really played. And she was not just doing it on the front row, but with passing and serving, too.?
Arnold said Bina has been the team?s vocal leader all season as the libero.
?There?s some big shoes to fill,? Arnold said. ?I thought she played very solid back there. She?s obviously not afraid to get on the floor, and her passes are so spot-on.?
Arnold said Ratzlaff drew a lot of fan attention because of her front-row hitting and serving, but the sophomore made significant contributions all over the court.
The Trojan student section cheers the "three-peat" after the winning point of the championship match.?Defensively, she can read so well,? Arnold said. ?She sees tips before they happen and can get to those balls without having to hit the floor. And she does a phenomenal job with passing.?
Arnold said she was pleased with the way her team came together to accomplish the goals they set on the way to a school-best 43-1 season record.
?I thought there were a lot of players who played well, particularly toward the end of the year,? Arnold said.
As for her personal accomplishment, Arnold said she has had a tremendous advantage.
?There just happened to be a lot of talented athletes three years in a row. That makes my job a lot easier.?

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