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Trojans headed to state

Staff writer

After the third game against Burlington Saturday in Council Grove, seniors Allie Faul and Hayley Jirak were overcome with emotion, tears running from their eyes and smearing their makeup.

Coach Sandy Arnold said the Trojans used the analogy of climbing a mountain to describe the test ahead of the team. The tears of joy from the two Hillsboro seniors confirmed that the Trojans are at the base of the summit and ready for the final but most difficult section of the climb.

The Trojans defeated top-seeded Burlington in three games, 25-15, 22-25, and 25-14, in the final of the Council Grove substate tournament to advance to the 3A state tournament in Salina for the third consecutive year. The Trojans have gone to state five out of the past seven years.

This year was different; they only returned two starters from last year’s team, Faul and Tena Loewen, who both changed positions. Most players’ prior experience was on the junior varsity team or, in the case of freshman Danae Bina, on the middle school team.

Arnold said she did not expect this team to make it to state at the beginning of the season. Part of Faul and Jirak’s emotion with the victory Saturday was proving Arnold and everyone else wrong.

“I think Allie and Hayley both felt that we could do this,” Arnold said. “We were a surprise to a lot of people. I didn’t know what to expect.”

Faul expressed relief but also breathtaking joy after the Wildcats hit the ball out of bounds for the final point of the day. The three-game match against Burlington was intense. Faul punctuated many Hillsboro points with leaps into the air and determined screams.

“After the second game we knew we had to come back with even more intensity,” she said.

The senior setter has gone to state three out of her four years in high school.

“This was different than my sophomore year,” she said. “I knew what it took to get here.”

What it took for the Trojans on Saturday was a heavy dose of powerful spikes from sophomore outside hitter Tena Loewen. Loewen scored 18 of the Trojans 66 points in a 25-25, 21-25, and 25-20 win over Council Grove in the first round.

As Council Grove charged back in the second game and the home crowd became a factor, Loewen smashed three consecutive kills.

Loewen scored 20 points in the Trojans second match, 25-18, 21-25, and 25-19, against Southeast of Saline, including two back-row hits and a set.

There was not a volleyball skill that Loewen did not demonstrate Saturday. She had three aces and several key passes throughout the day, including multiple diving plays and a play out of bounds to keep possessions alive. On multiple occasions, she passed the ball to Faul and then immediately started her leap to crush the ball into the opposing court. She even had a set to fellow sophomore Erin Loewen.

It seemed as though Tena Loewen jumped higher and hit the ball harder as the matches progressed. One hit from a back row position against Southeast of Saline went off an opposing passer’s forearms behind the purple Trojans defense.

In another hit against Southeast, Tena Loewen launched the ball and it struck a defender in the face and ricocheted out of bounds.

By the time she faced Burlington, she faced two blockers on nearly every attempt. Despite the increased defensive pressure, Tena Loewen only had one ball blocked straight back onto the Hillsboro court, every other strike glanced off of the blockers hands often out of bounds for Trojan points. She ended the game against Burlington, scoring 16 points with two blocks and an ace.

“I think she took control at certain times,” Arnold said. “She’s so aggressive. Everybody feeds off attacks.”

“We look to her a lot,” Faul said of Tena Loewen.

During the last stages of the match against Burlington, Loewen said she visualized all the plays made by her teammates that motivated her to excel. She did not want to waste the perfect passes by Bina, Maci Schlehuber, and Callie Serene or the perfect sets by Faul, or the hits by Erin Loewen, Krista Reimer, and Jirak, or the blocks by Reimer, Jirak, and Taylor Thiessen.

“I think everybody played their role today,” Arnold said.

“We have to remember that the climb isn’t over. We can’t just be satisfied,” Tena Loewen said. “If we go out and play our best, it doesn’t matter what the outcome is.”

Last modified Oct. 27, 2010

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