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Hillsboro finishes 2nd in state volleyball

News editor

Hillsboro Trojans head coach Sandy Arnold told her team throughout the season to believe that a fourth-consecutive state championship could be theirs, and a team with question marks entering the season coalesced around that belief.

Their dream fell short by one match, as the Trojans fell to perennial powerhouse Silver Lake in the championship Saturday.

“My job as a coach is to get these girls to believe they can do this, so you’re pumping them all year long,” Arnold said. “Every time you play, you’re not backing down. When it comes up short, it’s a heartbreaker.”

Tears flowed freely after the loss, for the lost dream, the end of the season, and the end of careers for Trojans seniors.

“The hurt in their eyes and the disappointment was very hard for me,” Arnold said. “They’ve got nothing to be ashamed about. You can say that to them all you want, and they’re still disappointed.”

It was doubly disappointing because the Trojans hoped to reverse a loss to Silver Lake they suffered Friday in pool play. Hillsboro was stunned in the first game 25-7, and held the lead deep into the second before Silver Lake grabbed momentum and the match 25-22.

The Trojans had no difficulty with the other two teams in the pool, defeating Nemaha Central 25-19, 25-15, and Hesston, 25-15, 25-18.

Hillsboro opened its Saturday semifinal against Douglass with a 25-17 win, but faltered in the second set, losing 25-13. The unexpected specter of elimination re-ignited the Trojans, who moved on to the final with another 25-17 victory.

Hillsboro fell behind early in the first set of the championship match as Silver Lake built a 7-point lead, 12-5. With Shannon Heiser serving and Alex Ratzlaff and Lakyn Johnson hammering kills, the Trojans trimmed the gap to 12-10, and pulled even at 13-13 on a Ratzlaff dink. Silver Lake went on a 9-2 run, and won the set 25-19.

The Trojans fell behind by 3 to open the second set, but took a 7-6 lead on consecutive aces from Ratzlaff. The game was tied 18-18 when Hillsboro mishandled a serve and a Johnson kill shot went wide to put Silver Lake in the lead 20-18. Heiser responded with a kill that proved to be Hillsboro’s final point, as Silver Lake reeled off five unanswered points for the championship.

“We came up against a buzz saw in Silver Lake,” Arnold said. “To get back to the final round and being a small 3A school, we went as far as we could go without winning it all.”

Arnold said the Trojans played with high expectations and targets on their backs all season.

“Everybody around here wanted us to do it again,” Arnold said. “Every team out there was trying to beat us. Nobody wanted us to go back and win it again.”

She thought the team came together well under the pressure.

“To have the grit, determination, and unity to withstand the attacks from everybody who played you was very commendable of them,” Arnold said.

Last modified Nov. 6, 2014

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