EMPORIA – Hillsboro’s attempt at a fourth straight state volleyball championship was stopped Saturday by another repeating state champ.
Silver Lake repeated as Class 3A champion by defeating in straight sets Hillsboro, which had won 3A in 2011 and 2012, then Class 2A last season.
“All year we have had everyone giving us their best shot and it was a hard season because of that,” said Hillsboro coach Sandy Arnold. “My job as a coach is to make them believe that we can do it again. I don’t know any other way to do it.”
Silver Lake did it behind the leadership of Alyssa Schultejans, who often gets as much elevation celebrating a point as she does getting off the floor for a kill attempt.
But the calming effect her play and leadership helped Silver Lake to its 25-19, 25-19 victory.
“It’s indescribable,” said Schultejans. “Back to back. There are not words to describe that. It is the best feeling in the world.”
Top-ranked Silver Lake flipped the script on notoriously fast-starting Hillsboro, serving aggressively to take the first set convincingly 25-19.
It didn’t take Hillsboro long to respond. Coming off an emotional win the day before over Hesston and a three-set thriller in the semifinals against Douglass, it looked as though destiny was once again in the Trojans’ corner.
Go-to hitter Alex Ratzliff was electric to start the second set, slamming home a kill before using her jump serve for two straight aces, giving Hillsboro a 10-8 lead early.
As it did throughout the tournament, however, Silver Lake refused to let momentum swing, showing urgency but never concern, neutralizing the Hillsboro attack from that point.
Silver Lake executed brilliantly defensively, taking away the line and cross shots, while returning nearly everything the Trojan attack threw at them. Going into the match Silver Lake coach Sarah Johnson wanted to put the onus on Hillsboro to dig and pass in order to get their offense in motion. The game plan worked flawlessly, with the Trojans struggling to consistently set up their hitters.
“We were ready,” said Johnson. “We train to convert.”
Convert they did.
After a brief run from the Trojans cut the lead to 21-19, Rachael Heiman’s huge block sealed the contest for the Eagles. Schultejans took care of business in the middle down the stretch.
In the third-place match, Douglass ended its season on a high note after falling to Hillsboro 25-17, 13-25, 25-17 an hour earlier. The Bulldogs defeated Wellsville 25-23, 26-24 in straight sets.
Class 4A-I – 1. Miege def. Topeka Hayden 25-19, 25-12; 3. McPherson def. Louisburg 25-18, 23-25, 25-22.
Class 4A-II – 1. Clay Center def. Baldwin 11-25, 25-20, 25-23; 3. Royal Valley def. Iola 25-22, 25-22.
Class 2A – 1. Washington County def. Wabaunsee 25-23, 26-24; 3. Central Plains def. Spearville 25-23, 25-18.
Class 1A-I – 1. Centralia def. Goessel 17-25, 25-15, 25-13; 3. Hoxie def. Waverly 24-26, 25-21, 25-23.
Class 1A-II – 1. Logan def. Sharon Springs 25-19, 25-21; 3. Axtell def. Fowler 25-16, 25-18.