To fulfill state tournament aspirations, must defeat good teams
The Hillsboro High School volleyball team is attempting to make the step from a very good team to a championship-caliber team.
An example is the Trojans’ recent matches with Cheney, ranked in 4A, and a rematch with Central Kansas League rival Pratt.
Hillsboro fell to the Greenbacks in consecutive games Sept. 20 at Pratt, 26-24 and 25-20.
The first game of the match was back and forth, with the two teams separated by four points or less the entire game. Pratt pried the game from Hillsboro, using talented hitters Aubrey Hoover and Payton Hoeme, even though Hillsboro had a 24-22 lead.
In the second game, Hillsboro jumped out to a 17-11 lead behind the serving of Addie Lackey, who put together a streak of 10 consecutive serves. The Greenbacks frantically called timeouts and subbed players to stop the streak, and Hillsboro could not hang on to the lead.
“We played passively. We need to get over the hump,” head coach Sandy Arnold said. “We’re right there with everyone.”
Hillsboro moved on to defeat Kingman, 25-13 and 25-14, in its second match Sept. 20.
The Trojans lost to Cheney 25-20, 25-27, and 25-23 Sept. 13 in Hillsboro. They later defeated Haven, 25-13 and 25-14, in the second match.
So far, Hillsboro has accomplished the first step in team development Arnold has wanted to see — they are defeating teams they are supposed to best. The next step is for the Trojans to start stealing wins against teams who are as good or better than they are. They were close against Cheney and Pratt.
“I want to beat one of them,” Arnold said. “It would give the girls a lot of confidence.”
The odds were stacked against the Trojans at Pratt. Arnold said they were playing on a short court at Pratt during Pratt’s senior night. The Pratt football team provided a hostile cheering section.
Even so, with some adjustments, Arnold believes the Trojans could have ridden back to Hillsboro with two victories instead of one.
The Trojans have taken the first step with their offense. The serving from Lackey, Tena Loewen, Callie Serene, and Danae Bina has been effective, even dominating in stretches. Now Hillsboro has to serve as well in pressure situations.
Arnold has been pleased with the passing and setting, but said one of the problems against Pratt was that not enough of the hits were landing for kills. The Trojans are disciplined enough that they give away few possessions without some kind of hit, but Arnold wants more of those hits to count for points.
“We need to kill the ball when we have it,” Arnold said.
Arnold also wants to see the defense improve, at the front of the net with blocks and in the back row with timely digs.
“We’ve been working on defense a lot,” Arnold said.
However, the Trojans know how to play volleyball; some of the next step has nothing to do with the technical aspect of the game. Hillsboro has taken the first step in consistently and positively communicating with one another on the court; now Arnold wants the Trojans to communicate the right strategy at the right time.
“Getting them to talk and say the right things not just chatter,” Arnold said.
As Arnold astutely pointed out, some of the Trojans’ struggles against good teams are related to confidence. The Trojans will receive plenty of opportunities to prove themselves against good teams with future games.
They played a talented Smoky Valley team, along with Sterling and Lyons on Tuesday. Arnold wants the Trojans to win the Canton-Galva tournament Saturday at Hillsboro.
The Trojans travel to Halstead for a tough rivalry match Oct. 6.
Then there is the biggest upcoming test with 5A teams Newton and Great Bend visiting Hillsboro on Oct. 8.
The Trojan Invitational should not provide an easy slate of games either, with Minneapolis and Circle, another team ranked in 4A, scheduled to travel to Hillsboro Oct. 15.
“We’re going to get over the hump and beat some of these teams,” Arnold said.