ELROY– For the third time this season, Royall defeated the Hillsboro volleyball team.
The Scenic Bluffs Conference champion Panthers ended Hillsboro’s season for a second straight year with a 25–18, 24–26, 25–19, 25–17 victory over the second-seeded Tigers in Saturday night’s WIAA Division 4 regional final at Royall High School.
Royall defeated Hillsboro in five sets in the regional finals a year ago.
“Royall came out firing on all cylinders and maintained that level throughout the match,” said Hillsboro head coach Mark Sullivan. “We recovered after losing first set to win the second set and had chances to win third pivotal set, but came up short.
“Royall controlled the final set to advance to sectionals. There was some great volleyball played on both sides with some incredible rallies. It was extremely sad to have it end, especially for my seniors, who I have been coaching since they were 10 and 11 years old.”
Royall (31–5, ranked fourth in Division 4) advanced to face Augusta in a D4 sectional semifinal at La Crosse Logan High School Thursday at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, Hillsboro finished the season 21–12 overall after finishing second in the SBC at 11–3, behind only Royall.
Saturday’s regional final loss ended the careers of seniors Mackenzie Sullivan, coach Sullivan’s daughter; Brittany Borchardt; Gabi Bjornsen; Bailee Cornell; April Thornsen; and Tasha Mitchell.
“It was very emotional for the team and coaches, but I am so very proud of our team and the way they battled,” added Sullivan. “It is easier to take a loss when you know you have given it your all and the other team was just better on that night. A special thank you to my daughter Mackenzie for being a great player, leader and a coach on the floor. I will miss you greatly.
“I know our kids put forward a great effort and should hold their heads high after another successful season. Our seniors leave with two conference championships and two runner-up finishes in their four years, which is a great run. I am proud of the entire team and would like to thank them, the coaches, administration, parents, custodians, the pep band and Dean Stenerson busing for their support during our fine season. Good luck girls in the future. I would also like to extend a good luck to Coach Craig Baeseman and Royall as they continue down the tournament trail.”
Hillsboro suffered a scare in last Tuesday’s regional opener and narrowly avoided a first-round upset against seventh-seeded Bangor with a 25–17, 26–28, 25–17, 19–25, 15–9 victory.
Sullivan powered the Tigers with 17 kills, 17 assists, 15 digs and six aces.
Tasha Mitchell also recorded 17 kills, a season-high, as well as a match-high seven blocks.
“We played well in the first set, but became quite flat rest of match,” said coach Sullivan. “It seemed like at times they were pressing instead of just playing volleyball like they know how. Errors were a big factor with us having 78 errors out of their 96 points scored. I thought Bangor played very well this match, which also had something to do with our difficulty. I was pleased with how they did not panic in fifth set and were able to close it out behind the play and leadership of Tasha Mitchell in crucial situations.”
Thursday night, Hillsboro defeated third-seeded Cashton, 25–12, 25–23, 24–26, 25–19 in the regional semifinal.
Mackenzie Sullivan had 13 kills, 13 assists and three aces. Sophomore Sydney Johnson had 11 kills.