The Hillsboro High School volleyball team was up 18-15 in the third game against Silver Lake Friday in pool play at Salina during the state tournament. Hillsboro took the first game, 25-23, but lost the second game, 25-14.
The Trojans allowed Silver Lake to score three consecutive points, aided by a kill by senior Kylee Dewey and two-serve streak by junior Ashlyn Lane. Hillsboro had led since 11-10 and the match felt like it may have been slipping away. That’s when Erin Loewen made the crucial play of the match.
Silver Lake hitter Alyssa Schultejans planned to drive a spike right past Loewen down to the floor as she had done all night. Loewen said blocking the 6-foot hitter was difficult because it was as if Schultejans was hitting down on the ball from space with her incredible length. On this play Loewen went up, one-on-one, and stuffed the ball back across the net with two hands emphatically giving Hillsboro the lead, 19-18.
The Hillsboro bench erupted with cheers more than they had at any other point in the tournament.
“It was extremely exciting,” Loewen said. “It got everybody pumped up and back into the game.”
Loewen was a role player for the Hillsboro High School volleyball team. She was part of a trio of middle hitters with freshman Shannon Heiser and fellow senior Taylor Thiessen who were tasked with patrolling the middle of the floor and delivering blocks. It is a unique fraternity and Loewen said the three players all became friends. Both her and Thiessen took it upon themselves to help guide Heiser, giving the freshman hitter any tips they could along the way.
The position however came with pressure. It was difficult to be a role player for Hillsboro this season for no other reason than another talented player was waiting to take the position if a player faltered.
Loewen, Thiessen, and Heiser were all talented enough to be a featured hitter for many other teams in the state. Senior Christina Morris was, too, and she could hardly get off the bench for Hillsboro. At the beginning of the season the division of duties among Loewen, Thiessen, and Heiser was about equal. In the last three tournaments — the Trojan Invititational, sub-state, and state tournaments — the playing time went almost exclusively to Loewen and Heiser.
Loewen understood how the game worked. She has made the adjustments. Last season she moved from outside hitter to middle hitter. This season she was also playing on the rightside of the court. This past season she hit less than she had in previous seasons. The onus from head coach Sandy Arnold for her middle hitters was to provide the team with necessary blocks to help out the team’s back row.
Why did the bench cheer so loudly for Loewen after that block? They understood that Loewen had done her job exceptionally well when the team needed it most — the ultimate goal for a role player.
Such efforts deserve adulation.