By Josh Brown
PIQUA — Anyone that thinks the weather can’t affect a volleyball match has never been inside the Trojan Activities Center for one.
And, as it turns out, the extreme heat can even cause problems for the Trojans when they go out on the road.
“I knew we would come out kind of flat. We were supposed to have a full practice yesterday, but as hot as it was, I reduced it down quite a lot to some basics,” Troy volleyball coach Michelle Owen said. “I didn’t want us gassed for tonight, because I knew we had a full day of school today. And you could tell — every time we don’t have a full practice before we play, we come out flat.”
Even without the full day of practice before, though, the Troy volleyball team battled through some ball control issues and against a scrappy Piqua team to close out Tuesday’s match in a three-set sweep, 25-13, 25-15, 25-20 at Piqua’s cool Garbry Gymnasium, the Trojans’ 55th consecutive Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division victory.
Troy improved to 6-1 on the season and finished the first run through division play at 5-0, with crossovers still to come as well as a second run through the North opponents. Piqua, meanwhile, fell to 0-5 both on the season and in the division.
And even though the Trojans started strong, turning a 15-10 lead in Set 1 into a 22-10 cushion after a six-point service run by Morgan Baber that included three aces, Set 2 left a bit to be desired.
Piqua not only kept pace with Troy early but took the lead at 8-7 after a Trojan hitting error. After a kill by Lauren Schmitz tied the score, Emmie Jackson went on an 8-point service run to give the Trojans some breathing room. Brianna Slusher had two kills, Schmitz and Baber had one apiece and Jackson had an ace during the run that made the score 16-8, and that proved to be the only difference in the set as the Indians continued to keep pace thanks to a number of aces and Troy miscues on serve receive.
“We were just flat across the board — it wasn’t like it was one person,” Owen said. “We looked sluggish at all positions and just a little bit behind, trying to catch up to play a bit.
“Our serve receive struggled a little bit all night. I messed around with our lineup a little bit, too, in Sets 2 and 3, so that probably didn’t help. I was trying to do some experimenting for our next couple of matches — we go to Fenwick on Wednesday and then have Beavercreek next week — so we have a little stretch where we need to experiment with people in some different spots and see where we can get some relief sub-wise if we need it.”
Set 3 saw more of the same as Kate Orban strung together a five-point service run to give Troy an early 9-3 lead, only to see Piqua fight back and take a 13-12 lead and keep the score tied as late as 15-15.
“In the third set, we went to a 6-2, and that changes our personnel quite a bit,” Owen said. “Not to the point where we should struggle, but to the point where we’re not used to playing next to people and it screws up your serve receive a little.”
But when Troy needed to put balls down, Schmitz was there. She had eight of her match-high 16 kills in the third set alone, including two of the Trojans’ final four points to put the match away.
“We’ve needed Lauren to be the go-to person this season, and so far, she’s answered the call,” Owen said. “She’s been able to find ways to score when we’ve needed her to score. In that last set at about 23-18, I told Morgan to run a specific play geared toward her, and she put the ball down. Thus far this season, she’s proving she can be that person and stepping up and filling that role vacated by Camryn (Moeller).”
In addition to her 16 kills, Schmitz added seven digs, and assist and a block. After that, Carly Pfeiffer and Hallie Westmeyer had four kills apiece, Gabbi Johnson, Orban, Payton Riley and Slusher each had three and Baber had one.
In addition, Riley had two aces, a dig and a block, Wesmeyer had two blocks, Pfeiffer had two digs and a block, Orban had three aces and two digs, Slusher had a dig and Johnson had two digs. Baber finished with 28 assists, five aces, two digs and a block, Alexa Holland had two aces and 21 digs, Jackson had an ace and a dig, Anya Coleman had an ace and seven digs, Ella Furlong had three digs and Emily Huber had four assists.
After Wednesday’s match at Fenwick, Troy continues its five-match road trip with a match at GWOC crossover rival Beavercreek.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.