Trojans split 5A test at Newton

 Hillsboro?s Addie Lackey pushes the ball cross-court during the Trojans? three-set victory over Great Bend Thursday. The Panthers were ranked No. 8 in Class 5A. Hillsboro?s annual venture into Class 5A volleyball gave the undefeated Trojans all the challenge they were looking for Thursday in New???ton.

Unfortunately, the even?ing ended with the Tro?jans? first loss.

Hillsboro opened with a 23-25, 25-23, 25-18 win over Great Bend, 26-5 and ranked No. 8 in 5A, but came up short against the hometown Railers on senior night, 25-17, 23-25, 19-25.

Coming off a full tournament Saturday and an emotional and physical battle with Hesston Tues?day, the Trojans dropped the first set to the Panthers after leading as late as 21-20. But they bucked up to win the next two.

?To get down by one game at the start?against a good team?it was nice to see them not give in,? coach Sandy Arnold said of her team.

The Panthers (24-6) had defeated Newton earlier in the evening, so when Hills?boro won the first set against the Railers, it seemed the Trojans were well on the way to a sweep.

But Newton (18-11), cheered on by a noisy student section, took over. The Railers led the last two sets from start to finish and held off a late Trojan rally in the second set.

?I don?t know if we thought we had the second game already because we had beaten Great Bend and Great Bend had beaten Newton?or if Newton just really picked up the pace,? Arnold said. ?It was disappointing in the sense that we could have had (the sweep), we should have had it.?

Even with the loss, Arnold felt good about the evening, given the level of competition.

?We learned much more about ourselves this week than we did last Saturday,? she said. ?We still had things we worked on, but now for sure we know we?re not as good as we think we might be. Maybe that was a good reality check.

?But to be able to compete well and battle with two 5A schools makes me feel pretty good about them.?

Hesston?Playing in a ?crazy? environment unrivaled for a Tuesday night matchup, Hillsboro rallied late in the third set to put away its No. 1 rival for the eighth straight time over two seasons.

The Trojans, top-ranked in Class 2A, defeated Hess?ton (16-3), ranked No. 5 in 3A, 25-18, 23-25, 25-22 before a raucous, standing-room-only crowd in the Hess?ton College gymnasium.

?It was a little crazy, and it was loud,? coach Sandy Arnold said. ?I thought it was fun.?

The Trojan coach said the biggest challenge facing her team was a mental one.

?I told our girls, do I believe we will beat them? Absolutely, we?ve proven it,? Arnold said. ?The issue is, can you go in and not think about the negative side of it?what if we lose to Hesston, what if we aren?t undefeated after this.?

Aided by some uncharacteristic errant hits by the Swathers, Hillsboro posted a 7-point win in the opening set. But during the final two sets, the competitive juices boiled for both teams.

Hesston winning the second set by two points set up the winner-take-all third set. As they had in the first two sets, Hillsboro fell behind early. The Trojans still trailed, 19-15, when they were called for a four-hits violation.

Arnold objected.

?I know I?was probably wrong and the official was probably right, but I felt like I needed to do something for the girls to get them fired up, so I argued it?a lot,? she said. ?Sometimes you?ve just got to show your kids you care enough to go fight for them.?

Arnold lost the argument, but the strategy ultimately worked. Still trailing at 21-16, the Trojans began to rally. Aided by the pinpoint serving of Addie Lackey, plus a point scored after a crazy off-the-foot dig by Maddi Duerk?sen, Hills?boro tallied six consecutive points for a 22-21 lead.

?I knew we were going to win it at that point,? Arnold said. And they finally did on three straight kills by sophomore Alex Ratzlaff.

?After the match I told them I was so proud?more than anything?that they got over the mental hump,? Arnold said of her team. ?Hesston is really good this year, and we?ve played them so many times. To be able to get over that is huge.

?Thankfully, we don?t have to play them anymore this year.?

Hillsboro opened the evening with a 25-8, 25-18 win over Sterling.

?We played pretty well the first game, and then I think our focus was on Hesston,? Arnold said. ?We kind of went through the motions a little bit in the second game.?

Coming?Hillsboro, 26-1 overall and 7-0 in the Central Kansas League, was scheduled to host its final two league games of the season Tuesday, facing Halstead (4-3, 22-10) and Nickerson (3-4, 12-15).

Hillsboro will host the Trojan Invitational Satur?day with Sterling, Augusta, Circle, Chapman, Minnea?polis, Rock Creek and Sun?rise Christian joining the field. Pool play begins at 9 a.m.

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