By Josh Brown
CENTERVILLE — It’s finally here.
After 24 matches and numerous titles, the Troy volleyball team has earned the opportunity to play for the one they wanted more than any others.
The Trojans (24-0) struggled with unforced errors early on — particularly behind the service line — during their Division I sectional championship match against division rival Butler. But in the end Troy was able to score when it needed to to win two close first sets, then it pulled away early and never looked back in the third to close out a 25-19, 25-22, 25-16 sweep of the Aviators Saturday at Centerville High School.
And the added focus should do wonders.
“I think so. We played a little tight today,” Troy coach Michelle Owen said. “Last time we played Butler, we dominated them. I told the girls they were going to play us better today — playing during the regular season is one thing, but if they could’ve upset a 23-0 team for the sectional title, that would’ve made their whole season. So obviously that pressure comes on, but we have kids that thrive on that pressure.”
It was the Trojans’ second straight sectional title and third in the past four years. But after winning a fourth straight Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division title and the final GWOC Tournament to be held, they now have a chance at the biggest prize yet — a district championship. Troy will face either St. Ursula — which swept them in last year’s district final — or McAuley Oct. 31 at Butler in the district final.
“It’s good. Obviously, our goal was to get back to district, but we still had to accomplish today first,” Owen said. “We can never look past a team. We had to stay focused — and now our attention can totally be on either St. Ursula or McAuley.
“We want to be the first Dayton team to get out of the district since they went to the format they have now, where Dayton teams have to play Cincinnati teams. It hasn’t happened, and we feel like we have the best shot of any Dayton team to this point.”
Against Butler, though, the Trojans started slow.
The Aviators held the lead in the first set until 8-7, when a kill by Katie DeMeo, a kill by Lauren Freed and an ace by DeMeo gave Troy a slim cushion. Butler rallied — aided by six service errors by Troy — and took an 18-17 lead before a Freed kill tied it up, and DeMeo served the next five in a row to give the Trojans a 23-18 lead, which they closed out.
“Errors were a huge issue for us today,” Owen said. “We have a goal of less than five unforced errors each set, and we had six service errors alone in that one. With those, we’re already over the limit, and we ended up giving away 13 of those 19 points on errors. We definitely gave them their fair share of points.”
That didn’t change in the second set, either. Dana Wynkoop served Troy out to a 4-0 lead, but Butler won the next six straight points and even held the lead as late as 22-21. But a kill by Freed gave the serve to DeMeo again, and she served the final three points, including an ace and then a tip kill by Freed on game point to give the Trojans a 2-0 lead despite five more service errors.
In the third, though, Troy took over from the start, building a 10-5 lead and consistently adding to it until the end. An ace by Wynoop and a tip kill by Camryn Moeller sealed the win.
Freed finished with 14 kills, an ace, 10 digs and a block and DeMeo had 14 kills, three aces, a dig and a block to lead the Trojans. Moeller had six kills, an ace, 14 digs and two blocks, Miranda Silcott had four kills, an ace, nine digs and a block, Drezanee Smith had three kills, a dig and a block, Wynkoop had 39 assists, three aces and six digs, Victoria Holland had an ace and nine digs and Kaylie Marshall had two digs.
The Trojans will now play either St. Ursula or McAuley at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 31 at Butler High School — looking to score a big win not just for themselves and their program, but for Dayton area volleyball in general.
“It’s frustrating,” Owen said. “We have great teams in the Dayton area, too. It’s a heavy volleyball area, and it’d be great for one of our teams to get that notch, to win district and get that experience of playing in the regional. And we have a great shot at it.
“We’re a better team than we were last year, and I think we have the best chance of any Dayton team to date. But we’re going to have to play a lot better than we did today.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.