The Hillsboro High School volleyball team defeated Halstead in the championship match of their regional, 25-21 and 25-10, Saturday in Marion.
The second game against Halstead the Trojans jumped out to a 17-6 lead propelled by a five-serve streak by Krista Reimer and consistent hitting at the net from Erin Loewen and Tena Loewen.
“Everything went well,” Arnold said. “The ball was bouncing right.”
The game was an example of the team volleyball of which the Trojans are capable. When Sandy Arnold looked over the bracket with her team, they decided that they wanted to face the third-seeded Dragons in the final. They were the only 3A team to defeat Hillsboro this year, a close match Oct. 12.
To hold Halstead and powerful hitter Aubrey VanSteenburg to only 10 points required the Trojans to all be on the same page. The team fed off the energy of the moment and celebrated exuberantly after every point.
“It’s just amazing,” Reimer said of winning a match like the one against Halstead. “We knew after the first game they were going to take it to us, and we decided that we were not going to let them get going.”
Hillsboro is now 34-6 on the season. They had not seen a lot of adversity throughout their regular schedule, but received it in spades Saturday.
The Trojans fell behind Halstead 6-10 in the first game against the Dragons before Arnold called a timeout. She told her team to take a deep breath and encouraged them to play their game.
With a Reimer block and kill and an Addie Lackey block and kill, the Trojans tied the game at 16. Reimer put the Trojans ahead by a point, 17-16. The teams traded points until Hillsboro went on a 5-1 run to finish, 25-21.
A senior, Reimer came up with many big plays throughout the day. Reimer served an ace that barely touched the back line to tie the game against Sacred Heart at 19; the Trojans fell behind the Knights 9-3 before coming back to win, 25-22. Reimer also ended the second game with Sacred Heart with an ace, 25-17.
“I knew we had one chance, if we lost it was over,” Reimer said. “I had to go out and do it.”
Reimer was one of several Trojans who stepped up Saturday after suffering setbacks during the season. Last season, Reimer started every game for Hillsboro. She started this season as the team’s second option at hitter to Tena Loewen. Arnold said that she, Tena Loewen, and Danae Bina are her most consistent players.
However, when Erin Loewen recovered from an illness and Danae Bina was moved to libero, Arnold decided to go with Erin Loewen in the starting lineup for the advantage in height. Reimer would sub out with Bina before every match.
Instead of being discouraged, Reimer has improved her hitting throughout the season, concluding with her performance Saturday.
“I was very comfortable with it,” Reimer said of lineup decision. “I was never comfortable playing in the back row because I’m not very quick. It has helped to have Danae back as a libero. (The team) was way more important.”
Arnold said if she could, she would hand out four game balls to outstanding performances from the regional tournament.
The first would go to Lackey. Lackey’s rolling hits, blocking at the net, and passing in the back row were instrumental in the Trojans’ comeback against Sacred Heart. Lackey has started to arrive as an outside hitter, possessing an ability to bend strikes around enemy blockers.
She suffered an ankle injury early in the season, and it took her time to recover her leaping ability.
The second game ball would go to Maci Schlehuber, Arnold said. Schlehuber’s serving and passing were important in the second game against Marion and against Sacred Heart.
Schlehuber was a starter for the Trojans at the beginning of the season, but it took the junior time to learn her role for Hillsboro.
Erin Loewen also received praise from her head coach for her blocking and middle hitting against Halstead. The junior hitter struggled with her transition from outside hitter last season to middle hitter this season. She also had to recover from an illness early in the season. Now, she is providing the front court defense that the Trojans had been lacking with the loss of Taylor Thiessen. With a shoulder injury, Thiessen was knocked out for the season before the 2011 campaign began.
Reimer’s fellow senior, Callie Serene, would receive the final game ball. Being able to make adjustments on sets and making crafty veteran decisions on tips were vital contributions against Sacred Heart.
“There was no individual,” Reimer said of the team play during the regional tournament. “We had to have everybody do everything and they did.”
Serene entered the season with the biggest shoes to fill. She was taking over for two-year starter Allie Faul. Serene stepped in seamlessly and the Trojan offense has been a high-functioning mechanism throughout the year.
This is the Trojans fourth consecutive trip to state tournament, beginning Friday morning in Salina. But this year there is a different feel to the journey.
“Last year we weren’t expected to make it,” Arnold said. “We know we can play. We’re going to push, I know that.”
Hillsboro has lost in pool play the last two seasons in Salina. The experience last year was bitter for Tena Loewen and Reimer, Arnold said.
“We’ve never come and shown what we can do,” Reimer said. “I know we’re going to do better.”
The Trojans, the fourth seed, will face Douglass (5) in the first round at 9:30 a.m., Wellsville (8) at 11:30 a.m., and former Mid-Central Activities Association foe Hoisington (1) at 1:30 p.m. in pool play at the state tournament.
The other teams in the tournament are Cherokee-Southeast (2), Seneca-Nemeha Valley (7), Phillipsburg (3), and Marysville (6).