By Josh Brown
TROY — After 52 straight division victories, Troy volleyball coach Michelle Owen is used to a certain level of play from her Trojans.
So when, even for a brief time, that’s not what she sees, she notices.
“It’s still frustrating at times, especially in Set 2, you know — when you know you’re capable of playing a certain way, and you just look the way we looked in Set 2, which was sloppy,” she said. “We made a lot of errors. We had to set some goals with consequences in Set 3 so we would play more like we are capable, and it was better.”
Still, the Trojans were rarely truly tested in Tuesday’s Greater Western Ohio Conference American North matchup against Butler as they served themselves out to big leads in each set and coasted to a 25-14, 25-19, 25-10 sweep of the Aviators at the Trojan Activities Center for their 53rd straight win in division play.
Troy improved to 4-0 on the season and 3-0 in GWOC American North play with the win, while Butler fell to 2-3 overall and 2-1 in the division.
Each set, Morgan Baber served the Trojans out to a big lead. Troy led 7-0 in the first set and piled up four aces total in the set, then she staked them out to a 5-0 lead in Set 2. And after Butler took its only lead of the match at 1-0 in the third, she served an 8-0 run to put the Trojans up 9-1, and Troy easily closed out the match.
“We came out every set kind of killing it for about the first third of the set,” Owen said. “But after that first third was over, it was like we’d kind of go on cruise control, slow down and kind of let them dictate what we were going to do on our side of the net, which is not what we want.
“We had 21 aces as a team, and we hit the ball at 31 percent. So with just a glance at those two stats, we had a pretty good night. But I don’t feel we passed the ball tonight nearly as well as we did against Miami East — and East served us way tougher than Butler did tonight. So that’s frustrating.”
Baber led the way serving with six of those 21 aces, with Payton Riley adding four and Brennah Hutchinson three. Baber also led the offense with 19 assists but only had two kills — as opposed to seven against the Vikings on Saturday — and three digs.
“Morgan had six aces herself on the night,” Owen said. “She served really well tonight. But on the flip side, her offense kind of slowed down a little bit. Against Miami East, she was so aggressive, and then tonight she only had two kills. She’s still learning, too.”
Lauren Schmitz led a balanced Trojan attack with nine kills and had an ace and a block, Carly Pfeiffer had seven kills, two digs and two blocks, Riley added four kills, an assist, four digs and two blocks to her ace total and Kate Orban had three kills and a dig.
“Lauren had nine kills and hit 41 percent — they really didn’t have a good answer for her,” Owen said. “And Carly had seven kills and hit 43 percent. Both of them had very efficient nights. We only had seven hitting errors as a team for the whole night, so that’s pretty good — and most of those were probably in Set 2.”
Gabbi Johnson had two kills, two aces, two digs and a block, Hallie Westmeyer had a kill, Brianna Slusher had an ace, two digs and two blocks, Alexa Holland had 11 digs and two aces, Anya Coleman and Emmie Jackson each had an ace and two digs, Hutchinson had three digs and Ella Furlong had an assist.
In that second set, Butler fought back after trailing by as much as 10-3 to tie the score at 16-16. But Westmeyer put down a kill on the right side to give the serve back to Troy, and Hutchinson served four straight points — including two aces — and the Trojans were able to close it out from there. And after a error on the first point of the third set, Baber ripped off eight straight points — including three straight aces at one point — to give Troy a 9-1 lead, and it was all Trojans from there.
Owen said she knew what Troy will be up against on Thursday, hosting division co-leader Tippecanoe, and that was what led to the solid final set.
“That was our momentum for Set 3, why we set the goal to hold them to a certain number of points and play our game,” Owen said. “I told them Thursday is going to be harder. They’re going to play better, they have two quality lefts that can put the ball where they want, they’re going to pass better than Butler’s passing — they’re not going to give up nearly as many points. So we have to take care of the ball on our side, because they’re going to be making us do things we don’t want to do as much.
“Tonight was a confidence booster for us, hopefully, and it’s nice to get another league win under our belts. Our goal was to finish this month 5-0, and we’re one step closer to doing that. Steps in the right direction.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.