The Hillsboro High School volleyball team won the Canton-Galva volleyball tournament Saturday in Hillsboro. The tournament was held in Hillsboro because the Canton-Galva gymnasium had been damaged earlier this summer.
Through the early going of the tournament, head coach Sandy Arnold was not pleased with Hillsboro’s intensity. Even though they had not lost a game, they had not played to their standard.
The Trojans’ second game against Goessel in their third match was telling. The Trojans fell behind the Bluebirds, 18-22. Tena Loewen scored five kills to win the game, 26-24.
Hillsboro defeated Canton Galva, 25-11 and 25-13; Moundridge, 25-16 and 25-14; Goessel; and Hesston in the semifinal game, 25-15 and 25-15 but seemed like they might be vulnerable.
Central Kansas League foe Halstead made it to the championship game with a dominating performance over Goessel, 25-11 and 25-15. Halstead senior Aubrey VanSteenburg had a streak of four consecutive aces against the Bluebirds; the 6-footer was hitting the ball as hard from the backline as her spikes from the net.
In the championship matchup, Halstead seemed poised to take advantage of a weakened Hillsboro team. VanSteenburg started the game with consecutive points. She blocked a Tena Loewen hit by herself and then slammed a kill around a double block. Halstead took a 4-1 lead with three consecutive serves from junior Shelby Howard.
Loewen was surprised by the single block on the first play of the match; it was the first time this season a team has strategized to block her one on one. Loewen scored nine kills in the first game against Halstead. Eventually Halstead moved over a second defender to the left side of the floor, and Loewen still notched her final two scoring spikes.
“I loved it,” Loewen said of being single-blocked.
The game was still close, tied at 21, before the Trojans scored three unanswered points to win, 25-22.
At times during the match, it was as if VanSteenburg and Loewen were the only players on the court, trading points.
At the end of the second game, Arnold made the move to put Loewen in the middle of the floor and the two star players faced off with one another with the net in between.
“She’s a great player. I just love that sort of competition,” Loewen said. “We’ll see a lot more of it.”
The second game was close throughout, with the Dragons holding a 13-11 advantage at one point. Loewen served an ace to tie the game. The Trojans took a 19-15 lead, but Halstead battled back within a point at 23-22 on the strength of three VanSteenburg kills. A VanSteenburg block gave the Dragons the lead, 23-24.
Loewen tied the game at 24. Addie Lackey scored the final two points for Hillsboro, including a thunderous spike that ricocheted off a Halstead players hands and hit the Hillsboro gymnasium roof to end the match.
Loewen and VanSteenburg were named the top two players in the tournament, but Loewen was named most valuable player. While VanSteenburg was a more powerful offensive player, Loewen also made several key passes, especially playing in the Hillsboro back row during the contest with Halstead.
“It’s humbling,” Loewen said of winning the award. “I didn’t expect it.”
In addition, Loewen’s teammates were adept to assist the Trojan hitter throughout the tournament. Lackey, Krista Reimer, and Erin Loewen all came up with multiple kills to keep defenses honest. Setter Callie Serene, who feeds Loewen the ball, was also named to the all-tournament team.
“I couldn’t do it on my own,” Loewen said. “When we get the other girls going, it opens things up for me. It’s a blessing to play for these girls and my coach.”
Although Hillsboro defeated Halstead during the CKL tournament at the beginning of the year, the Dragons were much improved this time around. The win was the type of quality victory Arnold was hoping to gain during the tournament.
“They played a great game,” Loewen said. “We had to fight for it, but that’s what makes teams better.”
The Trojans also won two matches Sept. 27 at Lyons.
On the strength of an 11-serve streak by Danae Bina, Hillsboro defeated Lyons, 25-12 and 25-8.
Hillsboro defeated Smoky Valley, 25-21 and 25-13. The victory included a 10-serve streak by Loewen featuring six aces. The Vikings’ coach was so mystified by the serving steak that he called a timeout after Loewen opened up with three consecutive aces and then assembled his defense with all six of his players aligned in the back row.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that,” Arnold said.
The Trojans are entering the heart of their schedule.
They faced Hesston, Halstead, and Sterling Tuesday at Halstead and then play 5A schools Newton and Great Bend on Thursday.
The Trojans are now 21-3.