TROY — For possibly the first time this strange season, Troy volleyball coach Michelle Owen was having fun.
How strange a season? It was during a loss to division rival Tippecanoe.
“It’s fun. This match was fun,” she said. “That was the first thing I asked the girls after it was over, was did you have fun? And they said yes.”
It was hard to argue, though, as the defending Miami Valley League Miami Division co-champions slugged it out for five grueling sets in the humid Trojan Activities Center Tuesday night, and while both teams had chances to win throughout, in the end the Red Devils came away with the 25-21, 26-28, 21-25, 25-15, 15-10 victory to take sole possession of first place in the division at 7-0.
The two teams have shared division titles the past two seasons, including last year’s first MVL Miami championship. Both times, Troy defended its home court but lost on the road.
“That’s the first time we’ve beaten them here, and it gives us command of the conference,” Tippecanoe coach Howard Garcia said. “We’re in a little more comfortable position right now.”
After Tuesday’s loss, the Trojans (6-1) will need to win at Tippecanoe on Sept. 29 to get a share of its ninth straight division title.
“I told the girls I hope we’re still playing in three weeks to where we can see that match play out,” Owen said. “We just want a shot to see what happens.”
And even though both teams came into the match having not dropped a single set all season, Troy — which graduated eight seniors — definitely seemed like the underdog against a veteran Tippecanoe squad.
“On paper, we had no business being in this match, with everybody we graduated and everyone they have back,” Owen said. “But I told them I believed they could 100 percent compete with this team and 100 percent beat this team if they believed they could. And they never gave up. It just came down to a few too many errors in Set 5.”
“You’ve got to give them credit. That team hustles incredibly,” Garcia said. “They maintain a lot of balls alive. However, at the end of the day, size did take control. We started blocking and getting some better swings from our middles. We had better serving and serve receiving, and that made the difference.”
The Trojans played well early, though, building a 13-8 lead in Set 1 and maintaining a 20-16 lead late before a seven-point service run by the Devils’ Kaitlyn Husic gave Tipp a 1-0 lead in the match.
The second set played out the same way, with Troy building a big lead late at 23-17. Alayna Titley served the Devils back into it, though, and after trading match points, an ace by Troy’s Anna Boezi that clipped the net chord and dropped tied the match at 1-1.
In the third, Troy led by as many as seven at 16-9 after a Morgan Kaiser ace, but the Devils again clawed their way back in, cutting the lead to 22-19. A Hallie Westmeyer kill ended that run, though, and Macie Taylor put away a shot to put the Trojans up 2-1.
“We got a little erratic, trying to muscle some balls and not hit smart,” Garcia said. “We just started hitting some smart shots.”
And once they did, Sets 4 and 5 belonged to the Devils.
Boezi had four blocks early in Set 4 to put Troy up 12-10, but Hannah Wildermuth served five straight points with a pair of aces and Corinn Siefring and Husic put down three kills apiece to help the Devils pull away. And in the decisive fifth set, Ashley Aselage had a kill and a block to start things off, Rachel Wildermuth later put down a block to give Tippecanoe a 7-2 lead and Troy never got closer than three points again, with Husic scoring the match’s final kill.
Siefring had 15 kills, 18 digs and an ace, Husic had 11 kills and Rachel Wildermuth had eight kills, two blocks and 22 assists to lead Tippecanoe. Aselage had six kills and two blocks, Alayna Titley had 25 digs, Molly Achetenberg had three blocks and Hannah Wildermuth had 14 digs, 12 assists and three aces.
Taylor led Troy with 12 kills and a block, Boezi added 11 kills, five blocks and three aces and Westmeyer had 10 kills and four blocks.
And, barring any spoilers for either team, it sets up an all-important rematch at Tippecanoe on Sept. 29.
“They’ve got to come to our place, if everything goes on schedule,” Garcia said. “But we did a very good job tonight.”
“I mean, how many nights do you get to come out and battle like this and just play fun volleyball?” Owen said. “It really was a great time. I’m proud of the way they came out.”
COVINGTON — Nigella Reck had 13 kills, nine digs and an ace and Lauren York had 11 kills, eight digs and two aces, leading Covington (3-3, 2-1 CCC) to a 25-11, 25-9, 25-22 victory over Bethel.
Carlie Besecker had eight kills, six aces, six digs and two blocks, Emmaline Kiser had four kills, Ellery Reck had 35 assists, four digs and three aces, Claire Fraley had two kills and a block and Hillary Hoying had four aces and three digs for the Buccaneers, who travel to Ansonia Thursday.
TC North 0
LEWISBURG — Newton (1-4) picked up its first win, sweeping Tri-County North 25-19, 25-16, 25-5.
Mia Dunlevy had nine kills and Ella Rapp had 28 assists to lead the Indians, who host National Trail Thursday.
Other scores: Miami East (3-3, 3-0 CCC) 3, Ansonia 0. Greenville 3, Piqua (1-6) 0.