By Josh Brown
VANDALIA — There came a point in each set where Troy just couldn’t find a way to close.
“We just couldn’t get over that hump,” Troy volleyball coach Michelle Owen said. “We’d get within two, give up a couple, get within two, give up a couple. We’d get about to the 20-point mark, but then there’d be that breakaway. We never quite found a way to finish those last couple points.”
And though the fourth-seeded Trojans fought off a pair of match points and rallied to win a tough third set to stay alive, the second-seeded Springboro Panthers (21-3) were able to pull out to an early lead in the fourth set and close to win the Division I sectional championship in four, 25-16, 25-21, 26-28, 25-20 Saturday at Butler High School, ending Troy’s streak of two straight district final appearances.
“We knew it would be,” Owen said. “When you go in as a No. 4 seed, you’ve got to jump on somebody. You know it’s going to be a war. The other two teams have a cakewalk to get out of their bracket, and I had to make a call. And I told the girls just now that I would make the same call. I’m not going to play Centerville at their home court, and we’d already lost to Beavercreek.
“I reminded the girls that, next year when we’re playing Beavercreek, how important that game is at that point in time. It doesn’t matter if we’re undefeated or whatever our record is. If you go into the sectional draw and you’ve lost to the only D-I team in the draw that you’ve played that’s a top-four seed, you’re going to be seeded below everybody. And then you’ve got to make a call — versus being a No. 1 or No. 2 seed and someone’s got to jump on you. Now there’s no guarantee Springboro wouldn’t have jumped on us if those tables were turned, but at least then you make them think about it.”
Troy kept things close in the first set, taking a 14-12 lead after a Miranda Silcott kill. But the Panthers won the next six straight points to go up 18-14, Troy closed the gap to 19-16 and Springboro won the final six straight to take a 1-0 lead.
The second set was more of the same, with the Trojans building a 15-11 after a series of kills by Silcott and an ace by Dana Wynkoop. But the Panthers chipped their way back into it, tying the score at 16-16, and after a block by Payton Riley and Gabbi Johnson tied the score at 21-21, a four-point run by Andrea Grimes, including two straight aces to end it, put the Trojans’ backs against the wall.
In the third set, junior Camryn Moeller took it upon herself to revitalize the Trojans.
Moeller piled up seven kills, a block and an ace in that set alone, jumping with excitement and trying to fire her teammates up after each point won. Katie DeMeo added five kills in the set — including one with Springboro leading 26-25 and looking to close the match out. A block by DeMeo gave the Trojans a 27-26 lead, and Wynkoop served up an ace to close out the game and keep Troy’s title hopes alive.
“She struggled some in Set 2,” Owen said of Moeller. “When we were tied 22-22, they served right at her, and she didn’t give us what we needed on those points. So it was good to see her, in Set 3, come out and show that she can be that player that can make those plays, put balls in play and find ways to score. She made some clutch plays, then Dana with that serve at the end, putting it right where I wanted it, was huge.
“We got in a rotation, got Katie back in the game, and Set 3 was fun. We ran some plays we wanted to run, and we scored on them. Then we just dug ourselves that hole in Set 4 that we could never overcome. We’d get it within two or three, then it’d go back to four or five. We’d get it to two or three, then it’d go back to four or five. We never could cut that deficit, so that was frustrating.”
Springboro jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the fourth set and built a lead as big as six at 15-9, but the Trojans fought back, getting as close as trailing 17-15. But Springboro middle hitter Devin Neal had three blocks and two kills over the course of the Panthers final eight points, and a kill by Cheyenne Corey on match point closed out the set 25-20.
Moeller finished with 15 kills, two aces and 31 digs, DeMeo had 13 kills, seven blocks and seven digs, Silcott had nine kills, two aces, 11 digs and a block, Lauren Schmitz had two kills, two digs and five blocks, Riley had a kill, two digs and five blocks, Johnson had a kill, a dig and eight blocks and Victoria Holland had a kill and five digs.
Wynkoop had 22 assists, two aces and seven digs, Katie Jackson had 17 assists, two aces and six digs andAlexa Holland had 14 digs.
The Trojans finished the season 20-5, their third straight 20-win season, and won their fifth straight division title.
“The girls accomplished a lot of things this year,” Owen said. “We went 15-0 for the first time ever with the new division lineup, we won the last-ever Troy Invitational and we had a 20-win season. Those are all super important things for us to hang our hats on.
“Next year, moving forward, we lose the Troy Invitational with the goal to hopefully become a better-prepped team for this very occasion. We don’t gain a lot — we’re still at a point where we play 15 league and seven non-league games. We’ve got to hope in those seven non-league games that we can grow and become a better volleyball team, so that when we get to this point next year, we’re a more experienced team and maybe handle this situation just a little better, with a little more poise. Be able to say ‘we’ve been here a little bit before, we have a little more leadership and we can find a way to win this thing and get back to that district title game.’”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.