The Hillsboro Trojans volleyball team traveled to Newton on Thursday for a triangular against Great Bend and Newton, going 1-1 on the night. Hillsboro defeated Great Bend in three sets, then lost to Newton in three sets.
Thursday was indicative of the Trojans’ ambitious scheduling, being the second and third meetings with 5A schools this season. Both Great Bend and Newton have more than six times the students of Hillsboro, according to the Kansas State High School Activities Association.
Hillsboro led most of the first set against Great Bend, with a lead as large as five points at 18-13, but the Panthers rallied back into the set and took their first lead since 1-0 at 22-21. A spike by Addie Lackey and a block by Emily Jost helped keep the outcome in doubt until the final point. Great Bend won the first set, 25-23.
The Trojans led the entire way in the second set, maintaining a lead of three to five points throughout the middle of the set. Great Bend came back, though, trimming Hillsboro’s lead to 23-22 late. A spike by Alex Ratzlaff put Hillsboro on the verge of winning the set, which ended on a serve out-of-bounds by Great Bend. Hillsboro won the second set, 25-23.
Hillsboro again led from opening serve until the end of the third set. The Trojans got out to a 5-1 lead early on the strength of blocking by Ratzlaff and Jost and miscues by the Panthers. Great Bend made a run back, but a solo block by Ratzlaff ended the run.
Ratzlaff, Addie Lackey, and Shannon Heiser continued to play well at the net, spiking, blocking, and tipping balls to the floor, while libero Danae Bina and setter Maddi Duerksen set up attacks. Great Bend made a brief run from behind by five to get as close as 20-18. However, Hillsboro responded with a run of its own, including spikes by Heiser and Lackey, to end the match with a 25-18 third-set victory.
The first set against the Newton Railers was back-and-forth for much of the way, but Hillsboro led the way. Newton was as close as 19-17 before the Trojans pulled away. Ratzlaff hit two aces and a spike and Heiser added a spike as Hillsboro closed out the set, 25-17.
The Trojans just couldn’t get any momentum in the second set until it was too late. Newton led 21-12 before the Trojans went on a run.
“I think Newton had a lot to do with that,” coach Sandy Arnold said.
She said the Trojans tried a variety of attacks, but Newton kept digging them out and going on the attack.
“We had a lot of one-and-outs,” Arnold said.
Lackey started the Trojans’ rally with a spike. Heiser hit a pair of aces, as did Lackey, and Ratzlaff added several spikes and a block as Hillsboro narrowed the difference to 23-21. Newton finally regrouped, though, and ended the set with a 25-23 victory for the Railers.
In the third set, Newton again kept Hillsboro from building any momentum. The Trojans didn’t allow any long Railer streaks, but they trailed 16-10 before winning their first service point of the set when Duerksen tipped a ball to the floor. Newton pushed the match to the brink, 24-16.
With every point being a potential match-ender, Heiser scored a spike, Ratzlaff hit an unreturned serve, Lackey spiked the ball, and Ratzlaff hit another ace to get within five, 24-19, before Newton took a timeout.
Out of the timeout, Newton ended the match with a spike, 25-19.
It was the Trojans’ first match loss of the season.
“I told the girls, this one was easier to take than last year’s loss to Council Grove,” Arnold said.
The Trojans swept Nickerson, 25-9 and 25-9, and Halstead, 25-12 and 25-12, Tuesday at home.