By Rob Kiser
TROY — Piqua volleyball coach Kaila Cook knew what her team is what up against as they headed south to play unbeaten Troy in a GWOC North matchup Tuesday at the TAC.
The Lady Trojans brought a perfect 17-0 record into the match with the powerful hitting of outside Lauren Freed combined with the towering presence of Katie Demao in the middle — to go with a solid team all the way through.
Add to that Piqua was playing its fifth match in four days and playing without one of its outside hitters in Mikyla Schaffner and the Lady Indians faced a tall task.
Piqua battled throughout the night against the GWOC’s best team before losing 25-14, 25-18, 25-18.
“We have played a lot of volleyball in a short time,” Cook said. “Troy has some really strong hitters. We didn’t have a lot of energy, but I thought we played pretty well for the most part.”
Ashley Brading opened the match with a kill and Ashley Ho had a kill, then an ace to tie the opening set 6-6.
Piqua was still within 12-9, before Troy pulled away.
In the second set, Piqua had actually taken a 7-6 lead on a tip by Ho and kill by Kyla Blankenship on Carly Brown’s serve.
Brading, who along with Haley Michael, had an early kill, had another for a sideout to make it 22-18.
Troy answered with the next three points to take the set.
Piqua showed no quit in the third set.M
After getting down 9-2, the Lady Indians battled back to tie it at 15.
Kyla Blankenship had an ace during the run and Brading had two kills.
But again, Piqua could get no closer than 21-17, before Troy finished the match with a 4-1.
“I don’t know what it was,” Cook said. “We just didn’t quite have enough.”
Brading led Piqua with eight kills, while Blankenship had an ace and Cassidy Sullenberger dished out 13 assists.
Kelsey Magoteaux led the defense with 10 digs.
“I thought this was a good test for some our young players on defense like Kelsey (Magoteaux) with the way Troy hits the ball,” Cook said. “I thought we handled it pretty well.”
Now comes a week off before playing four matches in the GWOC tournament in the final two weeks.
Piqua goes into that with a 9-8 record overall and finishes third in the GWOC North with a 3-2 record. They will open GWOC tournament play either Tuesday or Wednesday, which will be decided later this week.
“I think with all the volleyball we have played recently, it is good to have a break,” Cook said. “Sometimes, young teams can do pretty well in the tournament without the expectations — I think this team can do pretty well. This team has gotten better every day. I have never had to question the work ethic of this team.”
And Tuesday was no exception.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.