By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — The Troy volleyball team’s division winning streak may have came to an end at 63 matches last year.
But that didn’t stop the Trojans from adding to its division championship run.
Troy won a share of the final Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title last season — the team’s seventh straight. And as the Trojans enter play in the new Miami Valley League this year, they know they’ll be battling with Tippecanoe once again to keep that streak going.
The Trojans and Red Devils shared the GWOC American North crown last year with matching 14-1 division records, with Troy finishing 19-6 overall and reaching the Division I district final for the fourth time in the past five seasons. Before that, Troy had won six straight outright division titles — and they’re hoping to claim the first MVL Miami Division title for their own.
“We did share the title with Tipp last year. They had a great squad,” Troy volleyball coach Michelle Owen said. “And we know they’re going to be strong again this year. The girls obviously want to win it outright this year. The goal every year is to go undefeated in the conference and try to win as many of our non-conference games as we can.”
The MVL’s setup limits its volleyball teams in ways, though. Troy will compete in the Miami Division with Tippecanoe, Piqua, Butler and Greenville, with the sister Valley Division being made up of Fairborn, West Carrollton, Xenia, Stebbins and former division rival Sidney. Unlike the GWOC American League, though, where teams played division opponents twice and sister division opponents only once, the MVL will force teams to play all of the other teams, sister division included, twice.
That hurts Troy’s strength of schedule in particular, as the only Valley Division school to finish above .500 last year was Sidney. So with only four non-league games open in a 22-game schedule, the Trojans knew they had to get the best.
“We have a really challenging non-conference schedule again, playing teams like Centerville, Beavercreek, Versailles and Miami East. “For us to be able to go on the road and win all of those games is going to be tough — we play three of those four matches on the road. That will be a challenge for us, and playing Tipp twice will be a challenge for us, too.”
Troy definitely has the returning firepower to stand up to the challenge, though.
“We have a lot of people coming back, which is good for us. We have eight seniors returning from last year’s team,” Owen said.
Leading those returners is senior outside hitter Lauren Schmitz, who recently committed to play Division I college volleyball at Stony Brook University. Schmitz was the GWOC American League Athlete of the Year last season, leading the Trojans in kills with 259 and finishing second on the team in digs with 203.
Senior Kate Orban also returns as an outside hitter, and the Trojans’ senior middle-hitting duo of Briana Slusher and Carly Pfieffer also returns. Also back to run the offense is senior setter Morgan Baber, with senior Emily Huber backing her up, and senior defensive specialists Ella Furlong and Emmit Jackson also return.
“We’re looking to Lauren to provide a lot of offense and stability in the backcourt,” Owen said. “Lauren and Kate will be our one-two punch from the outside. We’re looking for Briana and Carly to bring some senior leadership to the middle. Morgan, we’re looking to her to provide leadership and run the team but also teach and guide our younger setters this year, with Emily getting some reps at setter, as well. Emmie committed to play at Wittenberg next year, and her and Ella will be competing for the libero/defensive specialist spot.”
Also back from last year’s team is a pair of juniors, defensive specialist Brennah Hutchinson and right-side hitter Hallie Westmeyer. And the Trojans have three new players on the varsity roster this year in junior Genna Coleman and sophomores Morgan Kaiser and Anna Boezi. Coleman is a defensive specialist, Kaiser is a setter and hitter and Boezi is 6-foot-2 and could help blocking in the middle or the outsides.
“We do have some seniors that we’re trying to replace and fill in some holes, but our preseason has been really competitive,” Owen said. “We’ve played in two really tough scrimmages against some of the best competition in the state, so we’re kind of seeing where we’re at and where some of our weaknesses and strengths are.
“We’re still trying to get a lineup formed right now. We don’t have anyone in necessarily set positions right now. We’re just trying to figure out where the best fits are and find a rotation that flows, see if we can lock down some spots and win another conference title.”
And the Trojans know exactly who will be standing in the way of that, too.
“We’re motivated, and we know Tipp’s motivated, too,” Owen said. “We’re going to have to be prepared and work hard and take care of our business in the gym and come in with a great gameplan. We know they’re going to want it just as much as we do, so we’ll have to stay focused and take care of both of those matches.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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