The Hillsboro High School volleyball team defeated Little River in the third-place game of the Canton-Galva volleyball tournament.
The Trojans won the match in consecutive games, 25-14 and 25-20. It was the second match of the day against Little River. The Trojans were pushed to three games in the first meeting, 22-25, 25-15, and 25-17. Hillsboro did not have as much trouble with the Redskins the second time around, controlling the action after taking the lead 4-3 in the first game.
Coach Sandy Arnold said she was proud of the Trojans’ effort in the third-place game. They had just lost to Hesston, 25-15 and 27-25, in the semifinal. It was only the Trojans third loss of the season, the second at the hands of the Swathers.
“We were all disappointed having played Hesston the way we did,” Arnold said. “It’s a lot better to go out 4-1 than 3-2.”
The Swathers led the first game of the match from the opening point. They collected leads of 10-5, 19-14, until eventually pulling away 25-15.
Arnold said the problem was not effort or a difference in talent between the two teams, but confidence.
“The first game we didn’t execute our game plan,” she said. “I don’t know if we were psyched out or what. I know we can beat them.”
In the second game, Hillsboro rebounded and accumulated an 11-5 advantage. Hesston charged back eventually tying the game at 18. The Swathers took their first lead at 20-19. Hesston was then awarded a point on a ball ruled in bounds. Arnold disputed the point, arguing that the line judge on the far side had ruled it out. The call went against Hillsboro and Arnold threw her clipboard in disgust, earning a yellow card in the process.
The Trojans eventually tied the game at 21. The score seesawed back and forth with ties at 23, 24, and 25. The Swathers won the match after Erin Loewen blocked a hit at the net, but the ball rolled down her body to the hardwood before a Hillsboro player could react. Krista Reimer then had a hit on the subsequent possession that landed out of bounds to give Hesston the match, 27-25.
“We need to play with more confidence from the beginning,” Arnold said.
Arnold believes the Trojans could gain that confidence by looking to two leaders on the team as an example.
Arnold said senior setter Allie Faul is the unquestioned vocal leader of the team. Her enthusiasm on the court filters down to the rest of the squad.
“She gets excited,” Arnold said. “She gets fired up.”
Although Faul is one of two seniors on the team, she changed positions from last year. She moved from libero where she was always a back row player charged with digging the other team’s spikes. She had set for the junior varsity team the year before, but had to get used to new hitters.
What she lacks in experience, she makes up for in hustle. Faul has no problem sprinting out of bounds after a wayward pass or diving on the floor to tip a ball one handed before it hits the court.
“She’s not afraid of hitting the floor,” Arnold said. “I made her my setter because, one: she can set. Two: because she’s a leader.”
Outside hitter Tena Loewen also changed positions from last year. As a freshman, she was a middle hitter. She was asked to do a little bit of everything — pass, hit, and block — but was not the Trojan’s primary offensive weapon. After Dakota Kaufman graduated, Loewen became Hillsboro’s best hitter as a sophomore.
“Dakota Kaufman was in that situation as a freshman,” Arnold said. “Tena learned from those girls last year.”
The Trojans were flustered after losing the first set to the Redskins in the first game of the first match against Little River. Loewen took over the last two games.
Nearly every set started coming her way, and her hits increased with velocity. To take the 3-0 lead in the second game, Loewen spiked the ball twice, eventually scoring the point on the second try. She had multiple hits where she blasted the ball between two defenders arms.
She scored on blocks and returned some Little River attempts at the net before they reached the Hillsboro back row.
Her hustle was also a factor. In the third game, Loewen dived once to her right to pass the ball to Faul and once to her left for a pass on the same possession before Hillsboro earned the subsequent point to make the score 8-10.
Loewen is also learning to make adjustments. Against Hesston, she used her leaping ability to hang in the air, read the blockers at the net, and modify her hit to go a different direction on multiple scoring plays.
“They look to Tena for her play and her hustle,” Arnold said.
As much as Faul and Loewen learned how to win by being role players on last year’s team, Arnold expects the young players on this year’s team — sophomores Erin Loewen, Maci Schlehuber, and Christina Morris and freshmen Danae Bina — to learn from Faul and Loewen.
“It’s going to be such a positive experience for them,” Arnold said.
The Trojans also defeated Canton Galva, 25-14 and 25-14, and Sunrise Christian Academy, 25-21 and 25-12, to end the day with a 21-3 record for the season.