You could throw out all the cliches you’d like…Patience is a virtue…Good things come to those that wait…after a while, those become what they are…worn out, overused phrases. Until the results that one is shooting for materializes, those can last just so long. So as the Hillsboro varsity volleyball team continued to search for that winning formula that most often eluded them this season, some frustration may have set in. Frustration…yes, but not doubt.
“Honestly I never doubted my team,” head coach Erin Boss said last night.
On September 25, the Hawks stood at 4-8 on the season after a loss to Windsor. But positive signs started to show at the Seckman Tournament on Saturday. A split (25-21, 21-25) with Fox where Sophia Marchetti had a six kill, three block match began the day. The team fell to Pattonville (16-25, 22-25) but had a balanced attack from Mackenzie Baker (5 kills), Marchetti (4 kills), and Grace Ringling (4 kills). Then came a commanding victory over Gateway Science Academy (25-9, 25-12) where Heather Ripperger accounted for 12 points and had four aces. Evie Roland dished out 16 assists, and Baker pounded down eight kills. Another victory followed over Grandview (25-23, 25-16) where the Hawks showed they could close out a tight set.
But possibly the most telling game was a three set loss to St. Clair. The Bulldogs came into the match with a 13-1-2 overall mark. Hillsboro fell just short in the first set 23-25, but came back to win the second set 25-21. The third set was finally won by St. Clair 25-21, but the Hawks had extended a very tough opponent. Baker went nuts with ten kills and eight blocks. Roland and Bella Lewis accounted for 16 and nine assists respectively, while Ringling added eight kills, and Roland had ten service points. Maybe…just maybe…it was starting to come together.
Monday night, Hillsboro faced the 8-6 North County Raiders. A first set victory (25-17) was followed by a second set loss (20-25), but the Hawks outlasted North County 26-24 in the third set. It showed the character of the team as player after player stepped up. Baker was her powerful self as she was responsible for 11 service points, and had ten kills. Roland and Lewis again were strong distributors accounting for 18 and 12 assists each. Marchetti came through with ten kills as well, and Ringling was strong defensively with five blocks. It looked like the Hawks were starting to find a lot of things that worked and were leading to success.
But the real test was Tuesday when the 13-4-2 Festus Tigers came to Hillsboro for a big conference match. The Hawks, carrying over the momentum of Monday’s victory, managed to hold on for an exciting 27-25 first set victory. But, like any good team, the Tigers fought back to take the second set, 25-18. What was it like in the Hawks’ huddle between the second and third sets? “We were all very positive and just had the mindset of ‘we got this, let’s go’,” Marchetti said. Lewis had no doubt the third set could be the Hawks’ moment to shine. “I knew if we worked together in the third set, we could come together and pull it off,” she said. “Coach Boss encouraged us to keep fighting, and we did.”
Oh how they kept fighting…all the way to a 25-20 third set win that gave them the match. A team that was 4-8 four days ago, was now 8-10-1 and full of confidence after beating a big rival. “I was confident going in, and they just solidified my confidence by bringing home a W,” Coach Boss explained after the match. “I knew after last night’s game against North County that we were starting to play more as a team. When you play big conference games like this one, you tend to bring a little more fire and heart to the table.”
Fire and heart…one could see and hear that from the players after the match. Baker, who had a tremendous match with 13 kills and four blocks couldn’t contain her excitement. “We are so happy,” she exclaimed. “We have been waiting for the time where everything clicked, and tonight was that night! I am so proud of my team for pushing through playing against an amazing team. Our defense was spot on, and Heather ran the back row well. Our setters were spot on and confident. The hitters ran the front row, and we had players show out tonight!”
Ripperger said she saw this coming. “I think tonight and Monday, we finally played as a team and not individuals, and it definitely showed. We dug a hole second set, but we didn’t hang our heads going into the third set. We played hard and finished how we started. I don’t think we’ve cheered in a game like we did tonight.”
Roland and Lewis again did the job finding the right players on the offensive side. Roland had 19 assists and said it was great to see the team come together. “I think it was a really big win for us,” she said. “I feel like it was the first game where everyone connected and everyone was on. The rivalry was a big part of our motivation in this game. We knew what we needed to do, and we did it.” Lewis, who had 16 assists, simply stated, “It was a great win against a great team.”
Marchetti came alive offensively, knocking down nine kills. “This was a really big win for us,” she stated. “Everyone gave it their all, and we connected as a team. It was an amazing game.” Roland added 11 service points and two aces, while Ringling collected three blocks on the night. She said it was a classic rivalry match. “It was a great game where both teams worked very hard, but I could tell my team wanted this,” she admitted. “We have been working so hard to finally come together and show what talent we have. I believe that we are finally playing as one team, and we have been working together very well. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has in store.”
Coach Boss summed up the evening hoping this was a harbinger of things to come. “Overall, we played as a team and we never gave up on the game or each other,” she said. “Sure, there were moments of weakness (mentally and physically), but kind of like last night, it was gut check time of who wanted it more, and tonight was our night. We haven’t had many home games, so to have three in one week is huge. We are coming off a decent turnout at the Seckman Tournament, where we started turning things around, which led right into North County last night, and Festus tonight. Our big win this evening was a hard fought one at that, but it was ours for the taking. Tonight’s win makes our two conference losses last week hurt a little bit more, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m happy. I am starting to see the team I knew we were, and have the potential to be, finally decide they were ready to come out and play.”
Thursday will be the team’s next chance to see if they can carry over Tuesday’s success. The Hawks will host Sullivan at 7:00 p.m. Ameritime Sports will cover this match.