Hillsboro?s three-year winning streak at the Cen?tral Kansas League preseason tournament ended Saturday in Hoising?ton with a three-set loss to Hesston in the finals on Saturday night.
But all things considered, coach Sandy Arnold said she felt her team did well for its first outing of the season.
?I told the girls I didn?t know where we?d end up in this tournament,? she said. ?To be in the finals and to play a traditionally strong program like Hesston?and lose to them close?is nothing to be ashamed of.
?We?ll be better the next time we play them,? she was quick to add. ?Growing pains hurt, but after you mature they go away. It just takes time to get the growing pains out.?
The Trojans came into the tournament ranked No. 1 in Class 3A by Kansas Volley?ball Association coaches, but Arnold said that lofty status didn?t take into account the departure of six key seniors from last season?s 39-5 team.
With tournament format, the 12 CKL schools are assigned to four three-school pools. The top two teams from each pool advance to an eight-team championship bracket.
The Trojans won their pool in fine fashion, defeating Larned, 25-13, 25-17, and Lyons, 25-13, 25-16. In the first round of bracket play, the Trojans rolled over Halstead, 25-14, 25-14.
The competition took a major step up as the Trojans took on a talented Kingman squad in the semifinals. The Trojans prevailed in the fiercely fought battle, 25-23, 26-24.
In Set 2, Kingman was leading 14-11 when it was discovered that the Eagles were serving out of order. Following a 25-minute delay to sort it all out, the game continued with a tie score of 12-12.
Arnold said the point adjustment seemed to spark the momentum her team needed to nail down the two-set sweep.
The win set up the Tro?jans for its championship match against Hesston, who hadn?t defeated Hillsboro in more than two seasons.
?In the first game, we served well and we attacked,? Arnold said. ?In the last two games we did not. We were on our heels.
?When you serve well, the other team doesn?t have a chance to run its offense as well. We also do not get to attack as much because we?re on our heels playing defense because they?re attacking at us.?
Arnold said she wasn?t sure what to expect from a squad that includes two all-state performers in Alex Ratzlaff and Shannon Heiser, but limited varsity experience among those seeking to fill the holes.
Arnold said her players can expect a lot of skills work in the gym over their next six practices.
?We need to work on the consistency of our setting, on blocking, timing and the pace of the game,? she said. ?We need to make our serving more consistent because it?s crucial. Then we need to work on our defense.?
That said, Arnold did find encouragement from the day.
?To go that tournament, with the quality of the top six teams that are there, and to come out second when we?re not playing our best volleyball says a lot for the future of this season,? Arnold said.
Coming?Hillsboro?s next outing will be Sept. 8 when the Trojans travel to Hal?stead for a triangular with the home team and Pratt.