Hillsboro High School volleyball coach Sandy Arnold said this season, culminated with a second consecutive state title, was not easy.
After a loss to Council Grove Sept. 6 in Herington, it was clear to Arnold that the Trojans were not meshing as the team had last season. The chemistry was off.
“The players knew that had to improve,” Arnold said.
This was the effect of losing seniors Callie Serene, Krista Reimer, and Sammy Koons to graduation. The players that spoke last season during the state tournament, inspiring the team with speechs about the Trojans being an underdog, were Serene and Reimer.
Enter junior libero Danae Bina as the leading chemist for the Trojans. Bina said she took it upon herself to bring the team excitement and energy before every match.
Look no further than Bina’s performance during Hillsboro’s passing line before any game late in the season for evidence. Bina had a routine with every single player as she worked her way down the parallel receiving lines. With Tena Loewen, Addie Lackey, and Alex Ratzlaff it was a simple jumping double high fives punctuated with an energetic scream. With Christina Morris, Bina had to slap the senior hitters’ hand as hard as possible in a low five before the line could continue. With Maci Schlehuber, she had to smack the senior setter on the butt.
Other routines were more complex, Bina’s handshake with junior setter Maddi Duerksen had more moving parts than a car engine. There are a double fist bump and hand slaps, before the greeting is ended with a jumping double high five. The handshake with senior hitter Taylor Thiessen was similarly complicated with a few variations.
“She’s a goofball is what she is,” Arnold said of Bina.
The Hillsboro coach talks tough but she was not beyond getting roped into Bina’s rituals. Before the junior libero could enter each match, player and coach would have a short conversation usually trying to make each other crack up. Arnold also said she could not pick up her clipboard before she got a signal from the ref for Bina to enter. Coach and player would then high five before Arnold would start coaching.
These moments sound trivial, something to pass the time between matches, but Bina understood that these things are important for getting to know her teammates and get them engaged in the team goal. At some point, Bina had to work out a ritual with each player, and that meant a lot to someone who may not get to play in the match.
“It just goes a lot better when everybody is excited,” Bina said. “It lets people be relaxed and not get down on themselves.”
Throughout the tournament the Hillsboro bench was energized and vocal during most matches, helping the players on the court.
Adding to Bina’s credentials as team chemist is her scrappy play as libero. She was named to the all-tournament team as the libero. Multiple times in the tournament Bina would have two digs on the same point.
Bina’s play helped Hillsboro to embrace the attitude of not letting any ball hit the floor without a fight, something Arnold said was crucial to the team’s tournament victory.
“She’s definitely important,” senior hitter Erin Loewen said of Bina. “She’s always talking, always loud. You can hear her from anywhere.”