Sterling hands HHS first volleyball loss

The Hillsboro volleyball team marked its official return to Class 3A Sept. 26 with its first loss of the season four days later against Sterling at a triangular in Larned.

The Trojans, who departed Class 2A as the No. 1 team and entered Class 3A at No.1, knocked off the home team in fine fashion, 25-13, 25-11, showing no ill effects from the two-hour trip west.

?They had a couple of hitters that were pretty decent, but their passing was not as strong,? coach Sandy Arnold said of Larned (6-20). ?We tried to take advan?tage of that a little bit.?

Stepping in against Ster?ling (15-5), the Trojans suddenly looked vulnerable, losing the first set, 25-18, to a scrappy Black Bear squad that had pushed them to three sets in the league?s preseason tournament.

?The first set was horrible,? Arnold said of her team?s performance. ?I don?t really have a good explanation, except that we didn?t warm up well and we played like we warmed up.?

The Trojans rediscovered attack mode in Set 2 and nailed down a 25-19 win, then continued to attack as the third set began and built a 20-13 lead heading into the home stretch.

Arnold said a couple of pivotal plays by Sterling put her Trojans suddenly on the defensive.

?We started getting a little on edge and didn?t hit like we should have,? she said, ?Instead of attacking, we got scrambled and didn?t play Hillsboro volleyball. When you?re playing a good team like that, you can?t give them any sense of hope that they might be able to win.?

Once the Black Bears grabbed the momentum, they refused to release it, nailing down the 25-21 win for the upset victory.

Arnold believes her team will learn from the experience.

?We have to move on, which is easier said than done,? she said. ?We learned some things about ourselves that we need to work on, and how we?re going to be better prepared when somebody does that to us.?

If there is a silver lining to the loss, it may be unloading the burden of being unbeaten.

?Now we can just play ball,? Arnold said. ?Hope?fully, that will take the monkey off our back a little bit.?

Coming?Hillsboro faces a challenging week, starting Tuesday with a triangular at Nicker?son against the home team (6-14) and Smoky Valley (7-11).

The level of competition jumps a notch or two on Thursday, when the Trojans return to Brown Gymna?sium to host Class 5A Great Bend and Newton. Matches begin at 8 p.m.

Hillsboro will continue the trend toward big schools when the team competes for the first time in the McPher?son Invitational against 5A and 6A schools Goddard, Nickerson, Salina Central, Salina South, Bishop Carroll and McPher?son.

The tournament begins with pool play at 8 a.m.

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