State bound!

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Dakota Kaufman digs a tough shot against Sedgwick.

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The Trojans express their joy upon securing the sub-state title.

In the end, the slogan on the back of their warm-up T-shirts said it all: ?It?s not how you start, it?s how you finish.?

The Hillsboro volleyball team battled back from a potentially devastating first-game loss in its semifinals match to earn a berth in the Class 3A state tournament.

The Trojans won the sub-state championship Saturday night at Remington with a 25-23, 25-14 win over Hutchinson Trinity in the finals.

After starting the day with a comfortable two-game sweep of Sterling (25-15, 25-11)?Hills?boro?s third victory over the Black Bears in eight days?the Trojans, seeded No. 2 coming in at 23-10, took on No. 3 Sedgwick (20-12) in the semifinals.

Hillsboro took charge early in Game 1 and was still leading 21-16 entering the home stretch. But the Cardinals caught fire behind the serving of Megan Cordell, reeling off six straight points to grab a 22-21 lead.

HHS finally stopped the run, but Sedgwick rode its momentum to a 25-23 win. The tide may have turned in the huddle between games, according to coach Sandy Arnold.

?The girls overheard a comment from the Sedgwick huddle that kind of fired them up,? she said. ?But we also talked about, as we have many times this year, how we have to play to win, and sometimes we play not to lose. We kind of did that at the end of that game. We were worried about making a mistake?and then we did?instead of hitting the ball.?

The rejuvenated Trojans never trailed in Game 2, building a lead as large as 19-12 before Sedgwick narrowed the deficit to 20-17 on back-to-back errors by Hillsboro. But a stuff at the net by Kassidi Luthi thwarted the rally and fueled HHS to a 25-17 victory.

Hillsboro carried that momentum into the deciding Game 3, surging from an early 1-2 deficit to a commanding 21-11 lead before claiming a 25-18 decision.

The win put Hillsboro into the finals against Trinity (13-16), the No. 4 seed who upset No. 1 Remington (27-9), 13-25, 25-17, 25-22, in the other semifinals match.

The magic was over for the Celtics?but they did threaten in Game 1. The two teams battled evenly from the start. Hillsboro never trailed, but also never led by more than three points (7-4).

Trinity?s last threat came on a kill by Adrienne Vieyra that tied the game at 23. But consecutive hitting errors by Hutch lifted the Trojans to the 25-23 victory.

Whether the Trojans smelled victory at that point or the Celtics caught a whiff of defeat, Hillsboro was clearly the superior team in Game 2. Trinity managed an early 3-1 lead, but a 7-0 Trojan run behind the serving of Cassie Kroeker put Hillsboro into the driver?s seat.

The Trojans? 25-14 margin at the end was its largest of the game.

?They were just pretty determined,? Arnold said of her team?s performance on Saturday. ?It was a favorable sub-state, but nobody was going to hand it to us.

?Going into the match with Hutch, I reminded Dakota (Kaufman) and Candace (Weinbrenner) about our bus trip back last year?it was awfully quiet,? Arnold said, referring to her team?s decisive loss to Sacred Heart in the 2007 finals.

?They were just very determined that it wasn?t going to happen again. I was really pleased with the effort (on Saturday) and the team that showed up.

?Every year I think, how are we going to replace the girls that left?? Arnold said about her team?s accomplishment. ?But every year somebody steps up and plays to their potential. It?s just so fun to see them grow and change and learn and pull it all together?especially when it counts like that.

?The bus ride home was awesome.?

Marion, meanwhile, ended its season at 13-22 with a three-game loss to Hutch Trinity in the opening round, 10-25, 25-17, 16-25.

State tournament?Hillsboro coach Sandy Arnold will be making a trip to Salina?s Bicenten?nial Center for the third time in her five-year tenure at HHS when the Trojans enter pool play on Friday afternoon.

The Trojans, seeded seventh among eight teams at 26-10, will open against No. 2 Garden Plain (37-3) at 3:30 p.m., then will take on No. 3 Rock Creek (35-4) at 6:30 p.m. and No. 6 Frontenac (27-10) at 8:30 p.m.

Despite having the least impressive record in the pool, Arnold is hopeful about her team?s chances. Rock Creek defeated HHS in a close semifinals match at the Trojan Invitational, Oct. 18., and Garden Plain lost to Nickerson, which HHS has defeated this year.

?If the same team shows up in Salina that showed up at Remington, we?ll be competitive,? she said.

If the Trojans survive pool play with a first- or second-place finish, they will compete in the semifinals at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Competing in the other pool of four teams are Phillipsburg (37-2), Hoisington (28-11), Osage City (35-5) and Jefferson County North (37-6).

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