CENTERVILLE — Having already seen her team’s streak of division championships come to an end and then seeing the Trojans’ run of three straight district appearances halted, Troy volleyball coach Michelle Owen would not commit to condemning the year 2020.
The way she saw it, it could have been worse.
“It’s been a weird year, but I’m so happy for these girls just because they got to play, they got to have a season,” she said.
That season came to an end in the second round of the Division I sectional tournament Wednesday at Centerville High School as the fourth-seeded Trojans could not put away No. 5 Springboro, with the Panthers outlasting Troy in five hard-fought sets, 18-25, 28-26, 24-26, 25-20, 15-9.
Springboro (18-5) advanced to Tuesday’s sectional final, where it will face Greater Western Ohio Conference rival and No. 2 seed Centerville — which swept No. 13 Springfield in Wednesday’s early match. The Panthers went 2-1 against the Elks this season, winning the latest meeting in five sets on Oct. 8.
The Miami Valley League’s Troy, meanwhile, finished the season 19-4. The last time the Trojans — who have made five district finals appearances in the last six years — did not reach the district final was in 2016, with a four-set loss to Springboro in the sectional final cutting that season short.
Troy’s only two non-MVL opponents all season were its two tournament opponents as both the MVL and GWOC played league-only schedules in the regular season — a fact that Owen felt likely aided in the Trojans’ defeat on Wednesday.
“They’ve played Centerville three times, Beavercreek three times … and even Fairmont, Miamisburg, Northmont and even tonight watching Springfield, those teams are just better quality opponents than anybody we see in the MVL besides Tippecanoe. So we struggled to have that kind of experience coming into tonight’s match,” Owen said. “And we knew that. That’s not our fault. But usually, having played a Versailles or a Fort Loramie or a Miami East, someone of that caliber, we’ve gone four or five more than once and a better prepped for this experience.
“It’s definitely rough because I felt like we played our butts off tonight, and we fell a few points short. And that’s just that experience for them coming back, and we were a little less prepared.”
Troy began the night strong, rallying from a 10-9 deficit in the opening set to take charge thanks to a pair of aces by Brennah Hutchinson, another by Morgan Kaiser and five kills by Anna Boezi. Eventually, a Springboro service area gave the Trojans a 1-0 lead.
The Trojans led 22-19 late in the second set and had set points at 24-23 and 26-25, but the Panthers fought back with a series of kills by Reese Wuebker — who finished with a match-high 27 kills on the night — and tied the match at 1-1. But Troy built an early lead in the third and held on in the end, with an ace by Genna Coleman closing it out and giving the Trojans a 2-1 edge.
“I was really proud of our girls tonight,” Owen said. “They came out with that fire and energy, and we needed that kind of momentum after coming in here Monday and playing flat and lethargic. We needed to come out and be able to execute our scouting report, and the girls just did that. They did their homework, and I just couldn’t be more proud of what they did.”
In the fourth, though, Troy fell behind 17-13 after a lengthy service run by Lauren Quatman, and a kill by Wuebker tied the match and forced a decisive fifth set. And in the fifth, Lili Coffin scored back-t0-back aces to give the Panthers a 5-3 lead, Ella Mazurek ran off five straight service points, including an ace, to make the lead 11-4, and Wuebker eventually scored back-to-back kills to close off the match.
“I felt like our serve got a little tired, and their picked up a bit,” Owen said. “And again, it could’ve been that momentum swing from them having played in five sets a few times. Our block got a little tired, our defense got a little tired, and I really felt that energy shifting. We could have served more aggressively, too. But I was proud of our offensive effort. We were putting away kills late with our middle connection that we weren’t early on. There were some good positives that came out of tonight, as well.”
For Troy, Boezi led the way with 14 kills, six blocks, four digs and one ace, Macie Taylor added 12 kills and 25 digs and Hallie Westmeyer had six kills, two blocks, one dig and one assist. Brennah Hutchinson had three kills, 16 digs, three aces and one assist, Ella Curcio had 15 assists, 12 digs, one kill and two aces, Morgan Kaiser had 12 assists, nine digs, one kill and one ace, Genna Coleman had 12 digs, four aces and four assists, Amber Poore had one kill, two assists, one dig and five blocks, Kasey Sager had one kill, two assists and one block, Ellie Fogarty had one kill and two digs and Brynn Siler had one kill and two blocks.
It was the final match in the careers of Troy seniors Westmeyer, Hutchinson, Coleman, Curcio and Poore — who very nearly didn’t get to play at all due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was just so happy that these girls got to play, because there was a time I didn’t think that was going to happen. I felt like they weren’t even going to get a season,” Owen said. “Even though it wasn’t the way we wanted it to be, I’m really proud of the way they battled against Tipp in that first meeting, and I’m really proud of the way we came out and ended it.
“I always tell them that if you play your best and we lose to someone that’s better than us, there’s nothing more I can ask. And they played their best tonight and worked hard.”