By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — Last fall, Miami County’s teams collectively saw unprecedented success, with three soccer teams and a volleyball team all playing in regional championship games on the same day an individual state cross champion was crowned, in addition to a trio of football playoff teams.
Tough act to follow? Or just the beginning?
On Friday as a follow-up to last week’s year-end rewards, the Troy Daily News sports staff listed 10 athletes to watch this upcoming fall season. Now, we are doing the same thing, only this time we are listing 10 teams to watch over the next few months that have the potential to be crowned come next summer.
The Trojans return many of the key elements from teams that have captured back-to-back Greater Western Ohio Conference American League North Division titles and been to the Division II playoffs each of the past two seasons. Troy is looking to capture its third straight GWOC American North title and go to the playoffs for the third year in a row — two things that have not happened since 1996-98.
The Trojans will be breaking in a new quarterback and four new linemen on offense, but are loaded with experience at running back, receiver and tight end. On defense, Troy will be inexperienced on the defensive line and in the defensive backfield, but are stacked at linebacker. Troy coach Matt Burgbacher has the program rolling right now and will look to keep things going in 2018.
Miami East Football
Even a move up a division couldn’t slow down Miami East’s momentum last season. The Vikings went 9-1 during the regular season, claiming the Cross County Conference championship outright — only the fifth league title in the program’s history and the team’s first since sharing it with Covington in 2015. That all helped Miami East earn the No. 1 seed in the Division V, Region 20 playoffs, where it was upset by a talented Reading squad 27-25 as the Vikings came up short on a measurement on a fourth-down conversion attempt late while trying to get into field goal range.
Currently, the Vikings have qualified for the postseason six straight seasons, the longest running streak among Miami County’s football teams entering the 2018-19 season. And East returns a number of key players in key spots, too, giving the team a head start as it prepares to defend its CCC title and attempts to play in Week 11 for the seventh straight time.
Speaking of long streaks, the Troy volleyball team has won a division title six straight seasons, dominating the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division by winning 50 consecutive matches against division opponents. The Trojans also returned to the Division I district final after a one-year absence, the third trip to district for Troy in the last four years. And although Troy graduated a number of weapons, including Ohio State-bound hitter Camryn Moeller, its younger players will look to step up and keep dominating the division and get return to the district final once again.
Miami East Volleyball
It’s impossible to talk about streaks or dominance without mentioning Miami East volleyball, though. Eight straight undefeated runs through Cross County Conference play for eight straight league titles. Seven straight trips to the regional tournament. Four state appearances and three Division III state championships during that run. And after winning a state title in 2016, a trip to the regional final again and a five-set loss to eventual state champion Versailles last year.
Of course, the question entering 2018 is how will the Vikings cope with the graduation of its two most dangerous weapons, Jonni Parker and Kyndall Hellyer? Well, that was the question after it won back-to-back state titles in 2011 and 2012, also, and Parker and Hellyer proved to be the answer to that. So, in addition to the returning talent the team already has, the question really is who is waiting in the wings to take over next?
Troy Girls Soccer
The Troy girls soccer team had its best regular season in years in 2017, piling up its most victories in a seasons since 2012 and winning its first outright division championship since 2013, only to see the season cut short in an upset overtime loss to GWOC American North Division rival Sidney — a team the Trojans had defeated during the regular season. And though the team’s defense was anchored by a now-graduated senior, goalkeeper Molly Miller, the team has a host of young talent returning and a quality senior class to lead the way. Troy looks poised to defend its division crown and make another run at a trip to the district tournament.
Tippecanoe Girls Soccer
Standing in the Trojans’ way, of course, will be an always-talented Tippecanoe girls soccer team. Members of the GWOC for only two years now, the Red Devils are 18-1-1 in division play, winning the title two seasons ago and finishing tied for second behind Troy last year. And in the postseason, the Devils upset the state’s No. 2-ranked team, Alter, only to fall to No. 1 Indian Hill in the regional final, the Devils’ first regional final appearance singe 2014. And even though Tippecanoe said goodbye to a large and talented senior class in the offseason, the Devils consistently field strong teams and will look to make another deep tournament run this season.
Tippecanoe Boys Soccer
Tippecanoe’s girls weren’t alone in last year’s regional final — the Red Devil boys soccer team took on rival Alter, as well, falling 2-0 to the Knights. But it was the second straight regional final appearance for Tippecanoe’s boys — they had been defeated by Alter the previous year — and the Devils posted an impressive 19-2-1 record for the second straight season, also — including a 1-0 regular-season win over the Knights and the team’s second straight GWOC American North Division title since joining the league two years ago. And, like the girls, the Devils graduated a large senior class, but with returners in key spots they should be a team to keep an eye on this year.
Troy Christian Boys Soccer
A relative newcomer to the regional scene, the Troy Christian boys soccer team won its first sectional and district championships a mere two seasons ago, only to repeat the feat last season and reach the regional championship game, where the Eagles lost 2-0 to Summit Country Day, the team that knocked them out in the regional semis the previous season. This year should be an interesting one for Troy Christian, which also won a share of the Metro Buckeye Conference title for the first time last season, in seeing how the team progresses after graduating a host of key seniors.
Troy Girls Cross Country
For the past four years, the first thing that came to mind upon hearing “Troy girls cross country” was the name “Morgan Gigandet.” Gigandet helped lead the Trojans to a Division I state runner-up finish in 2016 and a 13th-place team finish last year as she won her first individual state title in her senior year. But with Gigandet graduated, the Trojans still have a strong core group of veterans coming back, and with a strong incoming freshman class, they should remain a fixture at state.
Tippecanoe Girls Cross Country
Speaking of fixtures at state, the Tippecanoe girls cross country team has qualified for the Division II state meet five straight seasons, finishing third as a team the past two seasons after a state runner-up finish in 2015. That second-place finish came as the majority of the team was freshmen, and now that those Devils, led by two-time All-Ohio finisher Katie Taylor, are seniors, they will be taking aim at first place.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.