By Josh Brown
TROY — A fourth straight Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division title? Check.
An undefeated regular season? Check.
The top seed in the upcoming Division I sectional tournament? Also check.
A championship in the final GWOC Tournament? After Thursday, an emphatic check.
After dropping a nip-and-tuck first set, Troy (22-0) got clutch performances from everyone that set foot on the court, closing out a 23-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-14 victory over the Beavercreek Beavers Thursday at the Trojan Activities Center, capturing only the program’s second-ever GWOC Tournament title.
“We set goals at the beginning of the season, and one of those goals was to get back here and win it,” Troy senior Lauren Freed said. “It was so important. It was important to all of us.”
“It’s crazy, I can’t even describe it,” junior Katie DeMeo said. “Everyone just wanted this so bad. I can’t believe it.”
“It’s awesome,” Troy coach Michelle Owen said. “I’m so proud of all the girls and how they battled. Beavercreek is a great team, they had a great gameplan coming in — and we just had to wear them down.”
Before Thursday, the Trojans’ only championship in the GWOC Tournament came in 2012, Freed’s freshman year. The Trojans also won the sectional title and reach the district final that season, as they did last year. Last season, the Trojans finished second in the GWOC Tournament, defeating Beavercreek in the semifinals before falling to Lebanon in the title match.
And to finish this year’s regular season with an 18-0 record, the Trojans swept Beavercreek on the road 25-21, 27-25, 25-21 on Oct. 1.
Beavercreek (15-7) made sure early that that wouldn’t be the case again.
The teams played side-out volleyball for most of Game 1, with Troy retaining a slim lead throughout. Camryn Moeller served three straight points, including two aces, to extend the lead to 17-11, but Beavercreek answered with a three-point run and two aces by Aly Petering. A kill by DeMeo, then a kill and a block by Drezanee Smith made it 21-16 Troy, but a three-point run and pair of aces by Beth Boos cut the lead to one at 21-20 and forced a Troy timeout.
Freed ended that run with a kill, hitting the ball at a tough angle along the net to avoid the Beaver defense, but a kill by Tiare Saylor tied the score at 23-23. Saylor hit another flat-footed ball that stayed just inside the back line to give Beavercreek its first lead of the set at 24-23, and a narrow miss on a shot gave the Beavers the early 1-0 edge.
“They did a good job of putting pressure on Lauren in that first set and frustrating her,” Owen said. “But good players rise above, and that’s exactly what she did — with the help of everybody else.”
“When we’re off, we struggle a little. But as soon as we start clicking, we just roll with it,” Freed said. “In the first set, you could tell that they were keying on the players that hurt them the first time, and we struggled to work around it. But Dana (Wynkoop) did a great job of spreading the ball around, and Drezanee was just on fire. That’s the best I’ve ever seen her play. I was so proud of her. I was proud of all of us.”
But just like after dropping the first set against Centerville in Tuesday’s semifinal match, the Trojans fought back.
The Beavers took an early 9-5 Game 2 lead as the Trojans could not utilize one of their biggest weapons, its serve. Troy’s fifth service error of the set made it 16-11 Beavercreek, but a tip kill by Freed gave the serve to Miranda Silcott — and she finally sparked the Trojans.
Silcott forced the Beavers to burn both timeouts, serving eight straight points and dropping a pair of aces just inside the back line. She had a kill during the run also, and DeMeo had two kills and a block before the Beavers finally ended the run. It was too much for the Beavers to overcome, though, and a service error evened the match up at 1-1.
“It feels great, but I couldn’t do any of it without my team,” Silcott said. “They all get us so hyped up.”
“We needed that run,” Owen said of Silcott’s serving. “In that set alone, we hit our goal for the match in unforced errors — but we started cutting those down, and Miranda was a big part of that. Once the game was tied at 16, we knew that it was a game to nine — and we had all the momentum.”
And with Silcott emphatically leading the celebrations after each point, it was easy for the Trojans to feed off of.
“I do like to cheer,” Silcott said with a laugh. “When we get down, I feel like we need to get some celebration going. So yeah, I maybe try to embarrass myself a little bit — but it’s all for the team.”
Game 3 remained a dead heat until 15-15, when a Beavercreek service error gave the serve to Freed. Freed ripped two straight aces to force one timeout, then kills by Silcott and Moeller and another Freed ace forced another timeout at 21-15. The run ended at five, but again it was too much to overcome as a block by DeMeo sealed the game, 25-18.
And in Game 4, with the score tied 10-10, a service error gave the ball to DeMeo, who proceeded to rip off six straight points and cost the Beavers both timeouts. The second came after a kill from the back row by Moeller made it 17-10 Troy, and it finally ended at seven points with Troy up 18-11. Another missed serve gave the ball right back to Troy, though, and a thunderous kill by Freed and an ace by Silcott gave the Trojans total control. Victoria Holland dropped an ace inside the back line on the final point of the match to seal it.
DeMeo led the balanced Trojan attack with 15 kills, five aces, six digs and three blocks, Freed had 12 kills, five aces, 14 digs and two blocks, Smith had seven kills, six blocks and a dig, Moeller had six kills, two aces, four blocks and 13 digs and Silcott had five kills, four aces, 16 digs and three blocks. Wynkoop had 37 assists, a kill, an ace, nine digs and three blocks, Holland had 20 digs, three assists and two aces and Kaylie Marshall had an assist and a dig.
“At different points, everyone stepped up tonight,” Owen said. “When you’ve got a three- or four-headed monster that you’re trying to defend, that’s a huge order. They’ve got some good players, but I feel like once we got the momentum, we just kept putting the hammer down.”
And now on to the next goal.
“We’re looking to get out of district this year,” said Freed, who has played in two district finals — both runner-up finishes. “Since I’ve been here, this is the best team we’ve had going into the tournament. But we can’t look over the sectional. That’s next.”
“For the girls to set the goals they’ve set and accomplish them all, I’m so proud of them,” Owen said. “I’m proud of them all.”
Troy has a first-round bye in the sectional tournament, waiting until Oct. 22 to face the winner between Springfield and Sidney at Centerville High School.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.