By Josh Brown
TROY — The questions about Lauren Freed’s health, what percentage she’s playing at, can all officially be laid to rest.
Much the same way Troy’s first 20 opponents this season have been.
Freed, who has only been playing full-time in the front row since Sept. 22, six matches ago, had a big night Thursday in the second round of the Greater Western Ohio Conference volleyball tournament, leading the Trojans to a 25-15, 25-19, 25-13 victory over the Piqua Indians at the Trojans Activities Center — the Trojans 20th straight win this season.
And while the two-time reigning GWOC North Player of the Year isn’t necessarily 100 percent still, Freed — who had 11 kills, seven aces and eight digs in the match — still has plenty to get the job done.
“She’s still not 100 percent, still doesn’t have that explosiveness in her jump that she did before the injury,” Troy coach Michelle Owen said. “It takes getting that ankle strength back and basic conditioning — what it takes a week to lose, it takes three months to get back. But she’s obviously producing. She’s playing right where we need her to.
“The kids in the stands say her arm is a cannon, and it is. She has such good rotation on the ball, too, and that’s why she’ll still have a very successful career in college despite her height. Add that with her power and it’s very hard to stop — as you saw tonight.”
Last week during a regular season match, the Trojans (20-0) easily swept the Indians (11-9) 25-15, 25-18, 25-18. And Tuesday’s match started the exact same way, although Troy struggled with errors early on. Piqua didn’t score a point on its own until its eighth one, with the Trojans claiming a 9-8 lead despite the unforced mistakes.
But Freed and company flipped a switch, with Katie DeMeo serving a four-point run to make the score 13-8 Troy, with Freed putting down a pair of vicious kills during the burst. The Trojans began winning points in bunches from there, easily closing out the set — with Freed piling up six kills and an ace to lead the way.
The Trojans continued to dictate the action in Game 2 — which didn’t always go in their favor. Another string of errors and some scrappy play by the Indians turned a 9-4 Troy lead into a 13-10 Piqua advantage. The Indians eventually built a 16-14 lead, but a pair of aces by Freed and a four-point service run by Drezanee Smith put Troy up 22-17, and the Trojans took care of business from there.
“We did struggle, especially during that long stretch in Game 2. We just couldn’t put a ball down,” Owen said. “When that happened, our confidence started to fall apart, and once your confidence starts to fall apart, it’s tough to get back. But even though we struggled at times, we upped our service game — especially in Games 2 and 3.
“In Game 1, we were hitting at 45 percent and had 18 kills out of 25 points — that’s pretty unheard of. That’s 18 times we were in system and attacking and put a ball down. In Game 2, that dropped to 10 percent.”
In Game 3, the Trojans steadily pulled away, building a 14-6 lead before a four-point string of errors allowed Piqua to close the gap. But three-point service runs by both Freed and Smith later built the lead back to 23-12, and a kill by Camryn Moeller put the final stamp on the win.
“Drezanee did a great job,” Owen said. “Everyone does the serve-specific drills in practice. We were watching her during pre-game, and she was hitting it really well. We gave her a shot, and she played outstanding. She served the ball 17 times. That’s great for her, and that’s another look to show a team that they haven’t seen before.”
Smith finished with three kills, three aces, two blocks, four digs and an assist for a solid all-around night, and the rest of the Trojans contributed in a balanced way, too. Moeller finished with nine kills, five blocks, five digs and two aces, DeMeo had nine kills, three blocks and three digs and Miranda Silcott had six kills, 11 digs and a block to lead the way. Dana Wynkoop had 27 assists, while Katie Jackson and Emily Brinkman had three apiece.
Victoria Holland added six digs, Kaylie Marshall had two digs, Payton Riley had a block and a dig, Kearston Riley had a dig and Kylee Brooks had a kill.
Troy advances to the championship bracket of the tournament next week and will face a yet-to-be-determined opponent Tuesday at Troy in the semifinal round.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.