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Hillsboro plays well but fails to advance

Staff writer

Despite playing well, Hillsboro lost two out of three of its matches in pool play in the state competition Friday in Salina and the Trojans’ season is over.

The Trojans were the sixth seed and started the day against 37-2, third-seeded Phillipsburg. In the first game, the Trojans played as well as they have all year. Every part of their game was on point: they were passing brilliantly, serving efficiently, and Trojan senior Dakota Kaufman was dominating with vicious spikes and blocks. The Trojans won the first set, 25-23

Hillsboro’s passing stood out, especially because the Trojans had struggled in that area of their game earlier in the year. Hillsboro freshman Tena Loewen had several hard spikes slammed at her and she corralled them effectively toward Candace Weinbrenner to set up the offense.

“Tena really stepped up this year,” Kaufman said. “I was a middle my freshman year and she has played as well as I did.”

The difference between the first game against Phillipsburg and the subsequent four games they played was Kaufman.

She was able to set the tone early against Phillipsburg. With her second shot of the match, she spiked the ball with supersonic veracity at an unsuspecting Panther. The ball ricocheted off the unfortunate girl’s face and fell for a Hillsboro point.

Kaufman was scoring all over the court, hitting the last point of the game only a few feet away from the backline.

Then the tactics changed. Phillipsburg and No. 2 seed Wichita Collegiate both started purposely spot serving away from Kaufman as much as possible. Suddenly, the Trojans had some trouble passing as well. Hillsboro lost 20-25 and 22-25 to Phillipsburg and 25-17 and 25-18.

“The passing was the biggest thing today,” Hillsboro coach Sandy Arnold said. “We can’t hit the ball like we want to when we don’t pass.”

Throughout each match, the Trojan hustle never waned. They were diving all over the court saving most of the shots to extend volleys. Cruelly, those volleys usually ended with the opposing team earning a point.

“Sometimes that’s just the way games go,” Kaufman said. “It’s just the one who can get bump, set, and spike down.”

The Trojans did salvage the day by defeating No. 7 seed, 30-11 Eureka. However, the victory was bittersweet and the Trojans looked deflated and languid in the first set losing, 20-25. They ended up taking over and winning the next two games, 25-14 and 25-18.

“I kind of savored every point that we got,” Kaufman said. “It was our last game; that threw us off a little bit.”

The match was the last for Hillsboro’s group of seniors — Andrea Bartel, Tara Heinrichs Taryn Mayfield, Weinbrenner, and Kaufman — but it was the type of persistent success that was the team’s trademark during the season.

“We had some losses in there,” Kaufman said with last remnants of tears still in her eyes. “But we got to state and that says something about us.”

Last modified Nov. 4, 2009

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