By Josh Brown
TROY — Sure, the Troy volleyball team was disappointed after its loss to Tippecanoe earlier in the week, snapping a run of 63 straight division victories.
And sure, the Trojans slowed down a bit during Sets 2 and 3 after a dominant opening set.
In the end, though, they still put the finishing touches on a seventh straight division championship, sweeping the Piqua Indians 25-11, 25-21, 25-17 Saturday at the Trojan Activities Center, earning a share of the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North crown along with the Red Devils.
With the win, Troy finished the regular season 17-5 overall and 14-1 in the GWOC American North — tied with Tippecanoe, which finished 14-1, as well, after Thursday’s win over Butler — while Piqua finished 7-15 and 4-11 in the North. The Indians were the last team other than Troy to win the division title outright, in 2011.
“It does (feel good),” Troy volleyball coach Michelle Owen said. “This is the last year of the GWOC, and we’ve won seven division titles in a row now — that’s an impressive streak. And for the girls to do that, it’s been a lot of hard work.
“They’ve had a target on their backs for a long time now, and it’s hard when you’ve got that target to come out and execute every single night. It’s just awesome for the girls. I’m super proud of them, proud of our seniors and excited for our chances of getting back to district this year.”
Early Saturday, the Trojans showed just how good they are capable of playing.
Morgan Baber started Troy off with a 5-0 service run in Set 1, then Payton Riley served up six straight to give the Trojans a 12-2 lead. Riley added five more kills throughout the set and Lauren Schmitz had three, while Troy’s defense held Piqua to only two kills total to close out the first set with ease, 25-11.
“We had some goals set so far as what we should focus on,” Owen said. “In the first set, we did a good job. Our first contact was good, we served aggressive, we were being aggressive at the net and taking them out of what they wanted to do. But we started riding high on that, the pressure came off a bit and we knew we played them tough the first time this season, and we made some substitutions in the second and switched some people around. They came out more aggressive, and we got into a little rut.”
That rut allowed the Indians to build an early 8-2 lead thanks to a series of Troy hitting and service errors, as well as a block by Aubree Schrubb. A pair of aces by Emmie Jackson woke the Trojans up, but they still trailed by as much as 13-8 before beginning to close the gap.
“Every time we’ve done that this year, gotten into a rut at the beginning of a set, we’ve struggled to get out of it,” Owen said. “If we get down five or six early, we tend to find ourselves in a serious predicament.
“Morgan (Baber) has an aggressive serve. She’s one of the top servers in the GWOC, as is Payton (Riley). We lead one-two with those two, and then Alexa (Holland) is usually after them. Usually one of those three will get us on a run — but when they don’t, it takes us out of getting going and we kind of struggle. But Emmie Jackson got us going a little in the second set and picked up the slack. We still struggled, but eventually we were able to overcome them.”
Troy finally tied the score at 19-19 after two straight kills by Riley, and the score remained tied at 21-21 until Holland made a huge diving save on a big swing by Piqua’s Tylah Yeomans and Riley finished off the point with a tip kill to give the Trojans their first lead of the set. Riley followed that with a net chord-assisted ace, then a block by Carly Pfeiffer, a Piqua error and a kill by Kate Orban put it away at 25-21.
“Against a good team like Tipp earlier this week, we really struggle when we get in those early holes,” Owen said. “But today, at around point 18, we were able to catch back up. But that’s against a team like Piqua that doesn’t have a winning record. To accomplish our goals the rest of the year, we have to be able to overcome those deficits faster.”
There was no deficit to overcome in the third set, though, as Baber served Troy out to a 5-0 lead and a pair of kills and a block by Schmitz made it 9-2 early. Troy built a lead as big as 21-9 before the Indians won eight straight points, including a seven-point service run by Kamryn Trissell, to cut the Trojans’ lead to 21-17.
But a kill by Riley from the back row coming out of a timeout got the Trojans rolling again, and two more kills by Schmitz put an end to the match and wrapped up Troy’s title.
Schmitz finished with 16 kills, an ace, two assists, a block and eight digs and Riley had 12 kills, five aces, a block and six digs to lead the Trojans. Baber had 32 assists, two aces, two kills, three blocks and six digs, Holland had 16 digs and two assists, Orban had seven kills, three aces, two blocks and three digs, Gabbi Johnson had three kills, three blocks and a dig, Pfeiffer had two kills, two blocks and two digs, Jackson had three aces and two digs, Brianna Slusher had an ace, a block and a dig, Brennah Hutchinson had three digs, Ella Furlong had two digs, Anya Coleman had one dig and Emily Huber had two assists and a dig.
The Trojans are now off until Oct. 20 thanks to a first-round bye in the sectional tournament. They will take on Wednesday’s winner between Northmont and Tecumseh.
“We’ve got five days to practice now, and that’s why I like to take that bye,” Owen said. “It gives us a chance to get back to the fundamentals. The last few matches, we’ve kind of struggled with some connections, and now we get to break down some things and make those connections a little better.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.