Team rounding into form as substate tournament looms
Perseverance in close games, including a 33-31 set in a semifinal thriller against Augusta, catapulted Hillsboro to the championship of its home tournament Saturday, as the Trojans appeared to be coming together well a week before they make a run at another state tournament appearance.
“I knew it was going to be a slow start and it was going to be a long haul, but they really have grown, and grown with each other,” coach Sandy Arnold said. “We showed a lot of character and growth today, not just in our strategies and skill, but also in our confidence and character.”
The Trojans dispatched Chapman and Minneapolis with 2-0 wins against each before running into their first big test of the day against Rock Creek, ranked second in class 4A-Division 2.
The Trojans suffered their only set loss of the day in the opener against the Mustangs, 20-25. Hillsboro squeaked out a 25-23 win in the second game, then pummeled Rock Creek 25-12 to win the pool and advance to the semifinals.
Hillsboro led 4A Augusta 20-18 when the Orioles ripped off four consecutive points to take the lead, and the Trojans trailed 23-24 when Arnold called a time out.
With Augusta serving for the game, Alex Ratzlaff responded with a kill to tie the score, then served an ace for a 25-24 lead.
The Orioles fought back, and had three opportunities to win. Shannon Heiser kept the Trojans alive with one clean kill and another off a block, and Ratzlaff slammed a shot down the middle to tie the score 30-30. Augusta faltered with a hit into the net, giving Hillsboro a 33-31 win. The Trojans won the second game 25-21.
Arnold called a timeout after Hillsboro fell behind 2-8 in the finals against 4A Circle, No. 8 in Division 1.
“We were pooped, and I knew it, but what are you going to do?,” Arnold said. “You can either suck it up and play or you can cry that you’re tired. We had a little chat and they changed their minds.”
The Trojans climbed back into a 12-12 tie, then took a 19-14 lead on an Abby Sechrist block. But the Thunderbirds wouldn’t go away, forging a 24-24 tie on a service ace. Heiser ended a long rally with a put down through the middle, and then nailed a cross-court kill for a 26-24 win.
Circle stayed within one or two points in the second game until the score reached 20-18; from there, a 5-3 run by Hillsboro closed out the match and the championship 25-21.
“We made adjustments all day on people,” Arnold said. “I was pleased to see us be able to do that. They have come a long way. We’re not quite where we want them yet, but we’re working on it.”
She said the Trojans had more work to do in matches against Hutch Trinity and Sedgwick on Tuesday to prepare for Saturday’s substate tournament at Moundridge.
“We’re still not quite where we need to be,” Arnold said. “The biggest thing right now is we’ve got to continue working on our defense. We’re going to have to be at the top of our game next Saturday.”