By Luke Severt
For the Troy Daily News
TROY — The first set of a volleyball match can often double as the most important one.
On Wednesday night, the Troy volleyball team faced a bit of a scare early on against Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division foe Greenville but wound up winning in three sets, 25-22, 25-7, and 25-20 for their second clean sweep of the Green Wave on the season.
Although volleyball is played indoors, the late-September air was chilly on Wednesday, and the Trojans took awhile to heat up on the Trojan Activities Center court.
The opening set was a back-and-forth affair between the two teams, as neither side was able to garner a lead greater than four points. However, Troy was able to pull away late and hand the serve to senior Payton Riley with a 24-22 lead and an opportunity to clinch the set. She executed on her serve, and junior Lauren Schmitz turned in a kill shortly after, giving the Trojans a victory in the first set.
“Closer than I would have liked? Yes. Imagined? No,” said Troy coach Michelle Owen when asked about the first set nail-biter. “They’re an improved team, they have a new coaching staff and they’ve done a good job. I told the girls they would be playing better. I was happy for our girls to be able to not get nervous. We’ve done a good job of that this year, closing out sets that have been close and not letting the pressure from the other team get to us.”
While the first set may not have been ideal for the Trojans, the next one was. Owen believed that they were able to take advantage of errors by Greenville and put service pressure on the Green Wave to take control of the match in a 25-7 win in Set Two.
Morgan Baber opened the set with a seven-point service run that included two aces before Greenville was able to win a point. The set progressed to a 19-7 Troy lead before Schmitz won the set with another streak of serves, this time six in a row.
“Winning the first set definitely gave us some momentum,” said junior Kate Orban, who had one of her best games of the season with six kills, six digs and two aces. “We knew that Greenville was a team we could beat, and we came out and played much better in the second set.”
Although Greenville was dominated in the second set, they were not ready to quit heading into the third. They were able to break out to an early 7-2 lead and held onto it until the Trojans evened the score at 10-10. Troy grasped its first advantage of the set at 14-13, and the momentum from that lead was all they would need to carry them to the end.
“Set 3, we had a different lineup in, and I felt like things just weren’t really flowing well with us,” Owen said. “Once we put some of our regular kids that we’re used to playing back with each other, we started to put the pressure on them a little more, there were less errors on our side of the net and we started connecting more.”
With a 24-20 lead, Morgan Baber approached the service line with the chance to close the book on the set and the match, and she didn’t require any assistance in doing so. Her serve was too much for the Green Wave to handle, as they were not able to send it back over the net, giving Baber the match-winning serve.
Schmitz, who is fifth in the GWOC American North in kills, led the team with 14 of them to go along with five aces and 10 digs. Senior libero Alexa Holland, who was battling an injury, had seven digs, Riley had six kills and an ace, Baber had 25 assists and two aces and juniors Ella Furlong and Brianna Slusher had seven digs and five kills respectively.
With the win, Troy improved to 11-0 in the GWOC American North and 14-4 overall, while Greenville falls to 6-4 in conference play and 10-6 on the year.
A lot has changed for the Trojans since their first match against Greenville, the opening match of their season, including, according to Orban and Owen, their lineups, their service prowess, and their team chemistry.
However, there’s a lot that’s still the same. With four games left on their season –all of them division matchups – the Trojans are still undefeated in division play and have been since 2011. They’re also still working for the same things they set out to accomplish at the beginning of the year.
“We just want to win the GWOC North, win our sectional and go to districts,” said Orban. “That’s always been our goal.”