TIPP CITY — The Tippecanoe volleyball team didn’t take a lot of time celebrating immediately after its win over Troy Tuesday.
The Red Devils had a very important call to make.
Once they had head coach Howard Garcia on the phone, though, it was time to party as the Red Devils finished a season sweep of defending Miami Valley League Miami Division co-champion Troy Tuesday at Tippecanoe High School, winning 25-17, 25-23, 26-24 to claim the division crown outright and end the Trojans’ eight-year division title streak.
“His daughter got sick on Saturday, and he was with her. Sunday night, she went and got tested for COVID, so he’s self-quarantining while we’re waiting on her results,” said Tippecanoe assistant coach Jamie Voisard, who coached in Garcia’s absence. “She is already feeling better, but still no results.”
Getting the chance to see and hear his team celebrate one of their biggest wins during his tenure as coach had to help, though.
“It was amazing,” Voisard said. “We took them to five when we went to Troy, and honestly we didn’t have a great game there. To come in here today and have everybody played much better. Taking them in three, it was a lot more fun — and a lot less stressful.”
Tippecanoe (16-0) and Troy (14-2) had shared division titles the past two seasons, but the Devils’ grueling five-set win at Troy in the first meeting between the teams back on Sept. 8 put the Trojans in a must-win situation Tuesday night to get a share of the title.
“Being at home always helps, and that little release of the pressure — they needed the win today. We didn’t,” Voisard said. “We came into the gym a little early to get the jitters out to get them loose and relaxed so when we got in here, it’s go time.”
“It’s tough. I want to win as much as anybody else, and we wanted to keep that streak going,” Troy coach Michelle Owen said. “On paper, we didn’t really have shot against the weapons they had coming back this year. But we felt with our culture and tradition and firepower with our young kids, we could come out and bring it.
“We had an injury situation yesterday, and we had to move some things around and try to find a balance. That affected our energy coming out, and we were a little timid. We did the best we could given the situation we had.”
But the Devils came out on fire early, jumping out to a 13-3 lead in the first set to set the tone. And though the Trojans battled back in the second and third sets, Tippecanoe simply had too many weapons and used them relentlessly until it finally put Troy away.
The Devils came out firing, scoring all but eight points in the first set on kills, blocks or aces. Corinn Siefring — who finished with 15 kills — put away five of those, and Tippecanoe jumped out to a strong 1-0 lead.
Troy battled back in the second, though, falling behind 14-10 but tying the score at 14-14. And on the next point, the teams hammered away at each other on an incredibly long rally with big swings and diving digs to keep the ball alive on both sides of the court before Trojan setter Ella Curcio found an opening and scored on a surprise tip to give Troy its first lead.
“It was so fun, and Ella make’s that amazing setter dump to finally win it,” Owen said. “That was such a fun rally, and both sides played awesome, had amazing digs and no one could terminate.”
It was the kind of momentum-swinging rally that could have served as a turning point — but the Devils simply had too much firepower for the Trojans to overcome.
“They did, and we just weren’t connecting well enough to terminate,” Owen said. “We just couldn’t find a way to terminate the ball early in the rally, and they’d get a second shot and put the ball down.”
In the end, with the score tied 23-23, a pair of Troy errors gave Tippecanoe a 2-0 lead in the match. And in the third, with the score tied 23-23, Siefring boomed home a kill and Alaina Titley served up an ace to wrap things up and give the Devils the outright division title.
“For us, it comes down to not taking care of business in Set 1 of that first match,” Owen said. “We didn’t close out when we needed to. Had we done that, we would’ve won in three at our place and would’ve split with them again. But when you play a little sloppy against a great team like Tipp, it’s tough. We needed to do what we needed to do sooner.”