Hillsboro clinches CKL volleyball title with wins Tuesday

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 10:17 PM CDT
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HOISINGTON, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Nickerson may have dropped out of the Class 4A rankings but the Central Kansas League remains top heavy in volleyball this fall. Smoky Valley still leads Class 3A, and Tuesday night in Hoisington, No. 4 Hillsboro (2A) picked up straight-set wins against Nickerson and Hoisington.

“Coming into tonight I was a little nervous because it’s probably two of the toughest teams in our league,” said Lady Trojan coach Sandy Arnold. “It came down to the line whether we could finish it off or not.”

After finishing off Hoisington 25-20, 25-11, Hillsboro played from behind for half of the first set against Nickerson, finally leveling the score at eight and taking its first lead on the next point – a tip from senior Sammie Saunders.

The Trojans eventually pulled ahead 14-9 on another hit from Saunders, but the Panthers fought back with hits from Destiny Ponds and Ava Jones to again even the score at 16. The sides traded points from there with Hillsboro gaining a 19-16 edge with an ace.

Still Nickerson continued to fight, again tying the score at 22 and one final time at 24. With the first set on the line, Saunders put down another kill to finish off the Panthers 26-24.

The second set remained competitive throughout. The Lady Trojans pulled ahead 8-5 on an ace from Kirsten Kluver. Hillsboro eventually led 16-10 before Nickerson junior Josie Mclean took over on serve. Mclean aced her first two serves and added another big serve to tie the score at 16.

“She’s a great player,” Arnold said. “She’s smart and has so much volleyball knowledge. I was kind of disappointed because Ava was in the back, so I was hoping we would dominate at that point. But we struggled with Josie serving. We called a timeout and talked about the fundamentals of passing, just trying to get back into a routine and being calm. Then we did a much better job.”

Saunders stopped the bleeding with a tip for a point, then her ace put Hillsboro back on top 21-17. Sophomore Zaylee Werth had a pair of big kills down the stretch, including the final point to take the match 25-17.

Hillsboro placed fourth at the 2A State Championships in 2020. Despite some big losses to graduation, the Lady Trojans hope to head back to state with just one home tournament left in the regular season.

“We lost a lot of girls last year,” said Arnold. “For this group of girls to come out like this is super, super awesome. I’m very proud of them.”

Nickerson def. Hoisington 25-17, 25-22

Playing on Senior Night, Hoisington did not expect to fall behind 8-0 in the first set against Nickerson in the late match. The Lady Cards did make a match of it, stopping the run on a kill and subsequent serve from sophomore Jordyn Boxberger. Back-to-back kills from senior Kadence Urban cut the gap to 9-6.

But the Lady Panthers were too big up front. Jones put down two of the next three points, and her block late in the set pushed the Nickerson lead back to 20-12. The Lady Panthers took the first set 25-17.

An ace from Kieryn Ontjes and a kill from Jones helped Nickerson to a 5-0 lead to begin the second set. Hoisington battled all the way back to 10-10 on points from Urban, Boxberger, and Macy Hanzlick. The Lady Cards ultimately led 15-11.

But the Lady Panthers proved too much. As she did in the Hillsboro match, Mclean served up a pair of aces to put Nickerson back in front 17-15. Hoisington took one final lead at 22-21 on a hit from Boxberger, but Jones set up match point with a big block at 24-22. Avery Hambrick tipped the ball over for the final point of the night at 25-22.

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