It was a battle from start to finish, but the Hillsboro volleyball team rallied when it needed to and repeated as the champions of the Southeast of Saline Invita?tional Saturday.
With a 5-0 record for the day, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 2A improved to 12-0 for the season.
?I don?t really feel we played our best volleyball throughout the day,? coach Sandy Arnold said. ?But if you can win when you don?t play your best volleyball, that says a lot for your team. I hope we get to the point where we play our best and play it consistently.?
In pool play, Hillsboro defeated Beloit, 25-16 in the opener, but needed a string of serving aces by Alex Ratzlaff to pull out a 25-22 win in Set 2.
When Moundridge knocked off the Trojans in the first set, 25-12, Hillsboro stepped away from the brink of defeat by taking the next two sets, 25-19 and 25-16.
In their third matchup, the Trojans swept a much-improved Salina South team, but by the narrowest of margins, 29-27, 25-23, to claim the top seed in bracket play.
In the semifinal matchup against Southeast, Hillsboro found itself in hot water again. The purple-clad Trojans took the first set, 25-22, much to the delight of the home crowd.
SES led Hillsboro 13-6 midway through the second set before Arnold?s team rallied for a 25-20 victory. Hills?boro went on to earn a berth in the championship game by finishing off a tired SES squad, 25-12.
Ironically, Hillsboro enjoyed its easiest set of the day against Abilene, ranked eighth in Class 4A, Div. 1. The Trojans jumped to a 9-1 lead and went on to win, 25-9.
Whether the Cowgirls recovered their determination or the Trojans were a little too self-assured, Hillsboro had a fight on its hands in the second set before winning, 25-20, to win the title.
Even with some uneven performances, Arnold said the competitive tournament was good for her team.
?It doesn?t help us to play teams that aren?t going to give us as much of a contest,? she said. ?We need that now for our mental toughnesss as we move toward the end of the season.
?I told the girls over and over, you?re going to get everybody?s best,? she added. ?It doesn?t matter who they are, or how good or bad they are. They may play completely out of their heads because they want to beat you so badly.?
Hillsboro?The Trojans enjoyed a successful home-court debut Sept. 9 with a double-dual sweep of Doug?lass (25-19, 25-18) and Pratt (25-8, 25-16). Halstead rounded out the foursome, but did not face Hillsboro.
The Trojans, coming off an 11-day competitive break since the league preseason tournament, had their hands full in their opening match?up with Douglass, ranked 10th in Class 3A by the Kan?sas Volleyball Association.
The Trojans scored the first two points of the opening set, but neither team built a lead of more than one point until a tip kill by Alex Ratzlaff put HHS on top, 13-11. The Trojans? 6-point lead at the end of the set was their largest.
In Set 2, Douglass never trailed until another Ratz?laff tip nudged the Trojans into an 11-10 lead. Hillsboro went on to expand the margin to 23-14 near the end.
Coach Sandy Arnold said after Set 1, she switched to an offense the team hadn?t yet run against competition this year.
?I was pleased with the fact that the girls have enough volleyball knowledge that they could do this without a complete shutdown,? Arnold said.
?That says a lot for this group. Mental toughness is an area we work on every day of every season. It is a must.?
HHS was never seriously threatened by Pratt in its first league test of the season. The Green?backs had given the Trojans a battle in the league semifinals, but were battling illness and playing without their best hitter on this night.
With Hillsboro leading 10-3 in the first set, Ratzlaff served four consecutive aces to swing momentum firmly in Hillsboro?s favor.
In Set 2, HHS jumped to a 7-1 lead and appeared to be heading for another blowout. The Greenbacks rallied to 15-13 before Ratzlaff stepped in to serve and delivered three aces to push the margin back to six.
A 6-2 run down the stretch secured the 25-16 win and gave the Trojans a 7-0 season record.
Coming?Hillsboro was scheduled to step back into the fire Tuesday with a triangular Sept. 16 at Kingman against the host school (5-3) and longtime rival Hesston (10-1).
Next Tuesday, the Trojans will play in a triangular at Lyons, facing the host team and Hoisington.