The Hillsboro High School volleyball team won the Central Kansas League tournament Saturday in Pratt with six victories.
The Trojans were faced with a third game only once in the tournament when Smoky Valley beat Hillsboro in the second game of a pool-play match, 18-25. However, the Trojans bested the Vikings, 25-17, in the final set of the match.
Hillsboro and Smoky Valley squared off again in the championship match with the Trojans besting the Vikings in consecutive victories, 25-22 and 25-16.
“Everyone did their part Saturday, and everyone had a chance to shine,” head coach Sandy Arnold said. “It was a total group effort, with lots of hustle from all who played.”
Although Smoky Valley took the Hillsboro to three games, the Trojans toughest test came against home team Pratt in a semifinal match. The Trojans defeated the Greenbacks in two close games, 25-22 and 25-13, overcoming a 15-3 deficit in the second game.
Senior hitter Haley Jirak said the Trojans fell into the hole because of sloppy defense and the Greenbacks’ style of quick hits and drops off of unorganized plays.
“For a while we were beating ourselves,” Jirak said.
Arnold said she motioned to Tena Loewen to step up during the match. The sophomore hitter responded with characteristically scrappy play, keeping balls off the hardwood.
Arnold also noted senior setter Allie Faul pulling the team together during a dead ball. Arnold doesn’t know what Faul said and doesn’t even know if it mattered; it was the gesture that counted.
“I was very proud of the way they held their composure and of the leadership that emerged when things weren’t going well on the court,” Arnold said.
Although Faul set up Loewen for several winning points, serving was the key to the Trojans comeback.
Junior setter Callie Serene said the team’s spot serves started to work and suddenly the Trojans strung several points together.
The Trojans also defeated Halstead, 25-22 and 25-7; Sterling, 25-9 and 25-15; and Lyons, 25-9 and 25-13.
The comeback and the tournament as a whole are experiences from which the Trojans can draw strength all season long. Hillsboro players did not expect to win the tournament or play that well. They used the collective low expectations around them, even they acknowledge they are a young team, to fuel their play.
“We’re going to prove all those people wrong,” Junior middle hitter Krista Reimer said.
The comeback can be motivation for the Trojans in equally dire situations.
“When we really had to come together and work we did,” Serene said.