When head coach Sandy Arnold starts talking about the Hillsboro High School volleyball team for the 2010 season, words like young and inexperienced start popping up.
However, the youth of the Trojan squad didn’t seem to matter in six wins at the Central Kansas League tournament in Pratt Aug. 28 and in three wins against Marion, Mondridge, and Southeast of Saline Thursday in Marion.
While running their record to 9-0, Hillsboro lost only one game; dropping the second of three games in their first match with Smoky Valley Aug. 28.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Arnold said of the team’s play Aug. 28.
The Trojans lost five seniors from last year’s squad including four-year starters Dakota Kaufman and Candace Weinbrenner. Kaufman, Weinbrenner, and Taryn Mayfield had played together since seventh grade, developing chemistry on the court along the way.
An array of classes are represented in the Trojans’ top rotation.
Last year, Hillsboro ran a 5-1 offense with Weinbrenner as the only setter. Senior Allie Faul is moving from the starting libero position to one of two setter spots, the other being filled by junior Callie Serene.
“Allie is a great senior leader,” Arnold said.
Faul is one of two seniors on the team who will see significant playing time. Haley Jirak will be one of two strong middle hitters for Hillsboro, with junior Krista Reimer as the other.
Arnold said Reimer and Serene were the two hungriest players from last year’s squad; they’ve been waiting for a chance to break into the Trojans’ core rotation.
“Krista waited patiently,” Arnold said. “I think Krista will surprise some people.”
Serene was one of the setters for the junior varsity team last year, often setting up Reimer for kills.
“She has quite a bit of strength,” Arnold said of Serene. “She stays after practice to work on her setting.”
Serene and Faul will be looking to set up returning starter Tena Loewen. The sophomore hitter is expected to take on much of the offensive and leadership duties vacated by Kaufman. Arnold said Loewen didn’t have much of a choice in the matter but has led by example.
“She is an all-around player,” Arnold said. “She is a never say die player. She’ll cover a spot that someone has given up on. She’ll hit a ball that’s not perfect.”
Joining Loewen as outside hitters will be fellow sophomores Taylor Thiessen and Erin Loewen. Erin Loewen will be part of a rotation on the left side of the court with Tena, and Thiessen will specialize on playing on the right side.
“She’s got a big task,” Arnold said of Thiessen, “blocking the other team’s best hitter.”
How Hillsboro performs will depend on how they pass off their opponents hits. Passing is Arnold’s focus every year because she said it is a vital part of controlling game play.
Although she has yet to designate a libero, back row players sophomore Maci Schlehuber and freshman Danae Bina will be important to the Trojans passing efforts.
Arnold said she was looking forward to tournaments in Canton Galva Oct. 2 and the Trojan Invitational Oct. 16 In Hillsboro featuring Conway Springs, Minneapolis, Rock Creek, and Hoisington.
“This is a large group of young girls with a great deal of potential and athletic ability,” Arnold said. “The girls have a good understanding of the game.”