WONEWOC–CENTER- Hillsboro’s Scenic Bluffs Conference (SBC) title hopes went out the window with a pair of conference losses last week.
The Tigers dropped a five-set match to fellow league-leader Royall, 25–19, 18–25, 25–18, 17–25, 13–15, at a SBC quadrangular last Tuesday at Wonewoc–Center.
Hillsboro rebounded with a 17–25, 25–20, 25–21, 25–23 victory over the host Wolves later in the night, but Thursday the Tigers suffered a 3–1 loss at New Lisbon to fall two games off the lead with just two matches left in the season.
Royall (26–5, 11–1) needed to just one win in its final two matches to officially clinch the title.
Hillsboro went back and forth with the Panthers last Tuesday and lead two sets to one before Royall rallied for the victory. The Panthers scored the final two points of the night after the fifth set was tied 13–13.
“We played a really good match for the most part,” said Hillsboro head coach Mark Sullivan “I was really proud of the girls’ effort. We just came up short at 13–13 in final set. It could have went either way. It was an emotional battle, and the kids really put all they had into that match.”
Senior Mackenzie Sullivan had 15 kills, 14 digs, 12 assists and three aces in the loss. April Thornsen added nine kills, three aces and two blocks. Tasha Mitchell had eight kills and five blocks.
Sullivan posted a second straight triple–double with 14 kills, 16 digs, 10 assists and six aces in the win over Woneowoc–Center.
Sydney Johnson added nine kills. Brittany Borchardt made 35 digs.
“That was a tough match right after playing Royall,” said Sullivan. “We never really emotionally recovered and played flat. Wonewoc played well, and we had to grind out the win.”
After Tuesday night’s setback, Hillsboro still held out hope that Royall might lose one of its final three matches and allow the Tigers to grab a share of the title, but a 12–25, 25–17, 17–25, 21–25 loss at New Lisbon ended that notion.
“New Lisbon played very well and out-hustled us all night,” said Sullivan. “We never looked engaged in the match as a team. We had some good individual efforts but seemed to be reeling from earlier in the week. I need to do a better job of getting to have a short memory and move on to the next play, practice and match.”
Hillsboro (17–11, 9–3) hosted Cashton on Tuesday and will host Bangor to close out the regular season Thursday at 7:15 p.m.
The Tigers will then open the WIAA Division 4 regional playoffs Tuesday with a home match against seventh-seeded Bangor (2–10 SBC).
With a win Hillsboro will face either No. 6 La Farge or No. 3 Cashton in a regional semifinal next Thursday.
Royall is the top seed in the eight-team regional.