Hill City gets its chance in 2A
Published on -10/25/2012, 10:12 AM
By NICK McQUEEN
This is the chance eight senior girls on the Hill City High School volleyball team have been waiting for.
It's an opportunity three years in the making for the Ringnecks, and though they've been among the best in those three seasons, Hill City has fallen short twice. Despite a 30-win season in 2010, and a 33-win season in 2011, Hill City was runner-up at sub-state both times.
This year, though, they weren't going to be denied. Last week in Oberlin, the favored Ringnecks captured the Class 2A sub-state title in Oberlin, arguably the toughest sub-state in 2A. The win earned Hill City its first state berth since 2005.
"You don't want to look ahead, because if you start doing that, bad things can happen," Hill City coach Alan Stein said prior to the sub-state tourney. "We might be the favorite, but it's too much of a momentum game, and if you're not carrying the momentum into it, you're going to struggle."
The Ringnecks did anything but struggle, coasting to a 25-8, 25-9 win against Rock Hills, a 25-16, 25-19 win against host Oberlin-Decatur Community and a 25-20, 25-17 win in the title match against perennial contender Smith Center.
The sub-state featured four teams with single-digit losses, and the winner of the bracket has traditionally done well at the state finale.
In the Ringnecks' last trip to state, they finished 1-2 in pool play with losses to Moundridge and Lyndon and a win against Sedgwick at Fort Hays State University.
This season, Stein said the club is prepared for any competition, based on what this area has produced since he became coach 10 seasons ago. Since Hill City's last state trip, the area has seen five state trophies in 2A, including Oakley, Oberlin (twice), Plainville and Smith Center, all of which were in last week's sub-state.
"There have been, and are, some really good 2A teams out here," Stein said. "Just facing them on a weekly basis makes your program stronger."
Hill City (35-4) enters Friday's 10 a.m. match at Emporia State University's White Auditorium as the No. 2 seed. The Ringnecks' first match will be against Winchester-Jefferson County North (22-14).
"Competition seems to get better every year, and I think we've stayed with them every year and have beat a lot of them (this year)," said Ringneck senior setter Megan Gansel, who has collected 990 assists (11.6 per game). "They get better, too, so that has helped."
Last year after defeating Hill City in the sub-state title match, Smith Center went on to finish third in Emporia.
Hill City's successful run has been fueled by seniors Darrien Collins and McKenzie Cooper. Collins has 420 kills (4.94/game) through 39 matches, and Cooper has added 306. The Ringnecks earned the No. 2 seed behind Washington County (36-3).
For more on the Ringnecks, see this month's issue of Sports Ink., inside today's HDN.