By Josh Brown
VANDALIA — Heading into last year’s sectional championship match, only a handful of Trojans had experience playing on the district level.
Heading into the same match this season, it will be a different story for the Troy volleyball team.
“Our pretty core group of our starters has that experience, knows what it’s like to play in the sectional final. And that will be a big help,” Troy coach Michelle Owen said. “Our senior leadership, I think, will really help us out. We’ve been here before, we know what it’s like, we know what it takes.”
The fifth-seeded Trojans advanced to the sectional final Saturday with a sweep of No. 9 Northmont, defeating the Thunderbolts 25-17, 25-10, 25-14 in a second round matchup in the Division I sectional tournament at Butler High School.
Troy (18-5) will now face No. 4 Miamisburg (19-5), which dispatched Sidney in a sweep right before the Trojans took the court.
That may have played into how the Trojans came out against the T-Bolts, too, as Northmont aced Troy with serves seven times in the opening set keeping the score within one point as late as 15-14 before the Trojans finally pulled away to claim a 1-0 lead.
“In Set 1, we definitely gave them a lot of points,” Owen said. “We got aced seven times and missed five serves. They scored 17, and we gave them 12 points — and that’s not counting hitting errors, either. So we needed to calm down a little bit. Some tournament jitters, and we’d just watched Sidney play Miamisburg super tight. So we told our girls that we needed to come out and play hard against Northmont — they’re a good team with a tough schedule to play in their division.
“In between sets, we said we needed to calm down and take care of the ball a little bit better. And we did a much better job in Set 2.”
Troy didn’t give up any aces in the second set and only gave up one in the third, settling down and taking care of business.
“I felt like all my passers stepped up,” Owen said. “Lauren (Schmitz) really passed the ball great in that second set and called for the ball in that back-row attack that was really successful for us. We tried to keep our offense basic today, not show anything since Miamisburg stayed and watched. Kept it simple, didn’t run a lot of fancy things … and it went well. We did that in Sets 2 and 3.”
Another thing that helped calm the Trojans down was the serving of junior Emmie Jackson. She capped off a three-point run with an ace that gave Troy a 10-3 lead in the second set, and by the time the serve rolled back around to her, Troy led 20-10 — so she served the final five straight points, adding two more aces to put the Trojans up 2-0.
“She did a great job,” Owen said of Jackson. “Her serve has improved so much since her sophomore season. She really worked on it a lot in J.O. We’ve spent a lot of time this season as a team working on our serve, but her in particular, her serve has come a long way. She did a great job in both Sets 2 and 3 giving us that spark late in the rotation.”
Jackson had another ace in the third set, Schmitz had a pair of aces during a seven-point run as well as adding five kills in the set and Morgan Baber added an ace as Troy put the match on ice with an easy win in Set 3.
Schmitz led Troy’s offense with 13 kills and had two aces, Brianna Slusher had nine kills and a block, Payton Riley had three kills and two aces and Jackson led the servers with four aces. Morgan Baber and Kate Orban each had an ace and a block and Alexa Holland had an ace.
Now Troy will take on an unfamiliar opponent in Miamisburg — but even though the Trojans didn’t face them during the regular season, prepping for Saturday’s match against Northmont gave them a good head start.
“We feel pretty prepared for Miamisburg,” Owen said. “We didn’t want to look ahead too much, but there were similarities to Northmont — they’re both outside-driven teams, so we knew we had to start prepping for the outside game. Now, there’s some things that they do differently that we’ll have to prep for the next couple days, but as a whole it gives us a good shot, coming from what we just practiced for with Northmont and what we’re going to see against Miamisburg.”
Troy had reached the district final three of the past four seasons — last year and then also in 2014 and 15. The Trojans will get a chance to get there again, facing the Vikings at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Butler in the sectional final.
“The girls are really motivated,” Owen said. “They really want to get back to that district game, these four seniors do. And I think that leadership will help us and guide us there — and get these young kids that haven’t been there a shot to get there for the first time.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.