By Josh Brown
TROY — Last season, Troy ran off 13 straight victories before traveling to Versailles, only to see the state tournament-bound Tigers put an end to their undefeated streak.
The Trojans were looking for revenge Tuesday … but it would not come easily.
After Troy won the first two games, Versailles came storming back — aided by unforced errors on the Trojans’ side — to even things up and force a fifth game. In that game, though, Katie DeMeo, Miranda Silcott and Lauren Freed led the Trojans (8-0) on a 9-2 run to close out the match and give Troy the five-set win, 25-17, 25-21, 24-26, 20-25, 15-8 Tuesday at the Trojan Activities Center.
“We haven’t beaten them in at least three years,” Troy volleyball coach Michelle Owen said. “Last year, they were so stacked across the board, had Bruns who went to UD and Puthoff. They were such a balanced team, you had to pick your poison on who to defense. This year, we thought we had a chance to defend them well and key on their big player, Danielle Winner.”
Versailles won the Division III state title two years ago and was a state semifinalist last season. Another of Troy’s opponents this season, Miami East, won two straight D-III state titles the two seasons before the Tigers’ championship run.
It was the Trojans’ first win over Versailles since 2011 — when they also won in five sets.
The Trojans won the first set easily enough, steadily pulling ahead after a three-point service run by Dana Wynkoop put them up 4-2 early. The lead grew to as many as nine at 23-14, and behind three kills apiece from Camryn Moeller and Katie DeMeo, the Trojans cruised despite some iffy passing.
Those passing problems became more pronounced in the second game, but Versailles had problems of its own. Victoria Holland proved to be the hero, piling up three kills and two aces in the game, while DeMeo added three kills and a block. The game was still tight late, though, at 23-21 before a Tiger service error and a kill attempt hit long put an end to the game and put the Trojans up 2-0.
But the Tigers found a way to steal the momentum.
The Trojans held an early lead in Game 3, and after back-to-back kills by Miranda Silcott and DeMeo led 16-14. Versailles stormed back, though, grabbing a 21-19 lead before a kill by Moeller, an ace by Wynkoop and another kill by Moeller gave Troy a 22-21 edge. It was the last lead Troy held, though, and after a Moeller ace tied the score at 24-24, Taylor Tyo put down two straight kills to give the Tigers their first game of the night.
Lauren Freed, Troy’s leading hitter the past two seasons who had spent the first seven games of this season in the back row recovering, then took off the libero jersey and took the floor for the first time this season in her normal role as outside hitter, but it didn’t help the Trojans as those passing woes kept her from seeing the ball. Her first kill put the Trojans down 11-6, and while Troy was able to close to one at 16-15, it was never able to even it up as an ace by Lauren Monnin closed out Game 4 and forced a fifth set.
“Miscommunications,” Owen said. “In practice, we work so hard being disciplined on serve receive. But we went through stretches where we had communication breakdowns. We can’t just give up errors the way we did, not against a team like Versailles. They’re too scrappy a defense, and before Game 5 we said we couldn’t just keep giving them points the way we had.”
In Game 5, Troy finally hit its stride — and Owen gave Freed a chance to take ownership of the team for herself.
“She’s been taking front-row reps, so I put the ball in her hands before Game 5,” Owen said. “I let her make the call. As the senior captain, I wanted her to take that ownership and go out and lead her team, and that’s what she did.”
Freed had a kill during a three-point run that gave Troy a 5-2 lead, but the Tigers tied the score at 5-5. Moeller thundered down a kill, but Tyo kept the score even with one of her own. A kill by Silcott gave the Trojans back the serve, though — and allowed DeMeo to rotate in.
“In Game 4, when we got Katie the ball in quick tempo, they couldn’t stop her,” Owen said. “We just need to play just above or at where they were playing so she could rotate in, and that’s what we did.”
DeMeo immediately made her presence known with a big kill, then Silcott blocked a short return and put down a kill to make it 10-6 Troy. Versailles was able to get a point to break up the run, but DeMeo hammered down kills on three of the next four points to give Troy a 14-7 lead. Troy barely missed a game-winning ace on the back line, but DeMeo blasted her fifth kill of the game to finally wrap up the match.
“She just took over,” Owen said of DeMeo. “They couldn’t stop her, and she created space for Miranda. They gave us the burst we needed. And we also served the crap out of the ball. Dana (Wynkoop) was ripping them, and so was Camryn. We just had a different mentality in that fifth game.”
DeMeo finished with a match-high 20 kills, Moeller added 16 kills, Silcott had 12 kills and Holland and Freed each had five. Holland added four aces, Wynkoop and Freed had two apiece and Moeller had one. Wynkoop also finished with 54 assists, with Freed collecting three and Holland one. Freed led the team in digs with 20, Moeller had 17, Silcott had 13, Holland had 11 and Wynkoop had nine, and DeMeo added four solo blocks, Silcott had three and Moeller and Freed had two each.
Troy now travels to Springboro Thursday before returning home to host the Troy Invitational Saturday.
“We can’t have a letdown now,” Owen said. “We’re going into league play now after the Invitational, and we need to make sure our focus is centered and strong.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.