By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy volleyball coach had seen an effort like the Trojans put out in a first-set loss against Fenwick Wednesday before this season.
“It started out just like Centerville,” Owen said, referring to a 3-0 loss on Sept. 2. “We came out flat, we made a ton of mistakes, we didn’t respond to our mistakes — and I was worried it was going to be another loss like that, where we come out like that against a great team and don’t respond.”
But she also had another memory to help calm her nerves — last year’s five-set victory after dropping the first two on the road against the same Falcons team.
“Last year when we went to Fenwick, we just got beat in Set 1 and 2, actually. We just got smacked,” Owen said. “It was embarrassing, and we thought we had no business being in that match, we thought there was no way we were going to pull this out — and we made some adjustments and ended up winning Sets 3, 4 and 5. So I had some confidence that we could make some adjustments.”
And even though the Trojans, who battled back to force a decisive fifth set once again against the Falcons, ended up losing the match 25-15, 19-25, 25-19, 16-25, 15-10, the way Troy fought back and competed against a Fenwick team that was a Division II regional finalist last season gives the Trojans (13-4) a confidence boost heading into the second run through division play and then the postseason.
“ These are the ones we have to learn from,” Owen said. “We’re going to go to the tournament draw, and we’re going to have to play somebody. We’ll probably be the No. 3 seed, and someone will jump in our bracket. We’re going to have to play a match like this to get back to district, and that’s the goal of this squad to get back there. And hopefully, we can make that happen.”
The first set Wednesday couldn’t have gone worse for Troy. After keeping it close early, trailing 6-5, the Trojans fell behind 9-5 and failed to win back-to-back points until the Falcons held a 24-12 lead, and Fenwick took a 1-0 lead.
“It was really just going to depend on whether or not we could find our ball control and pass,” Owen said of the Trojans’ chances after that set. “If we couldn’t pass, we were done. And luckily, we settled down in Set 2 and controlled the tempo a bit more.”
Dana Wynkoop served up three aces and staked Troy out to a 4-0 lead to begin the second set, but a seven-point run by the Falcons put the Trojans down 10-6. But Camryn Moeller and Carly Pfeiffer combined for four kills to help tie the score at 11-11, and a big block by Brianna Slusher and Kate Orban gave Troy a 15-14 lead. After the Falcons tied the score at 16-16, Lauren Schmitz served Troy to a three-point lead, and the Trojans were able to hold on from there to even the match.
Fenwick’s Riley Wildfeuer took over Set 3 by herself, though, piling up eight kills as the Falcons never trailed in the set, taking a 2-1 lead and putting Troy’s back against the wall.
“There were things that we had on our scouting report that we just weren’t making the adjustments with,” Owen said. “How to defend their three-zone ball, how to defend their slide, things that we had practiced and still not defending the correct way, so that was frustrating in Set 3. And our defenders were frustrated because people were out of position and reaching in front of people.”
In Set 4, though, the Trojans made every big play possible to force a fifth set.
The score was tied at 10-10 before Schmitz served a four-point run that included a big block by Payton Riley and Slusher on Wildfeuer that made the score 14-10. Following that, libero Alexa Holland made a self-defense dig on a booming shot by Wildfeuer — one that sailed over the surprised Falcons who had gathered at the net to celebrate and landed in-bounds for a kill that sent the Trojans celebrating instead.
Fenwick closed the gap to 17-16 before a service error gave the serve to Moeller, and she went on to serve the final seven points of the set, including four aces — one on set point — to force a fifth set.
The Falcons took the advantage in the fifth, though, thanks to a pair of early double calls on Troy set attempts, but Slusher hit back-to-back aces to tie the score at 5-5. Moeller tied the score again later at 7-7, but that was as close as the Trojans got as Wildfeuer put down five kills in the set and Julia Popson hit an ace on match point to end it.
“That’s kind of what happened in the end of Set 5, too — we had two balls that weren’t hard-hit balls, but people reached in front of other people because they didn’t talk,” Owen said. “Stuff that we could’ve fixed on our side of the net: some errors, missed serves, setting errors and just the reaching in front of other people. But they’re a good team, and they kind of jumped on us in that fifth set — and that’s tough to overcome.”
Moeller led Troy’s offense with 13 kills and four aces. Schmitz added 10 kills and an ace, Slusher had eight kills and two aces, Orban had three kills, Pfeiffer and Payton Riley each had two kills and Holland had one kill and two aces, Wynkoop had one kill and three aces and Morgan Baber had a kill. Wynkoop also had 30 assists, Baber had seven and Holland and Kearston Riley each had one.
Defensively, the Trojans played a strong match with 71 digs and 17 blocks as a team. Pfeiffer had five blocks, Slusher and Orban each had three and Payton Riley, Wynkoop and Baber each had two. Holland led with 21 digs, Moeller had 13, Kearston Riley had 12, Schmitz had 11, Wynkoop had eight, Slusher had four and Pfeiffer and Payton Riley each had one.
Troy now finishes the regular season against its five Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division opponents, beginning at Greenville Thursday night.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.