By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TIPP CITY — After Wednesday’s battle between undefeated Troy and Tippecanoe, both coaches agreed that, no matter the result, the atmosphere the match was played in was incredible.
The action on the court had plenty to do with that, too.
In a matchup between two teams that shared the division title with each other last year, the Tippecanoe volleyball team jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, only to see the Trojans battle back to even up the match and force a decisive fifth set. In the end, though, the Red Devils were able to outlast Troy for the 3-2 win, 25-19, 25-21, 19-25, 23-25, 15-10 in front of a raucous capacity crowd Wednesday at Tippecanoe High School.
“That’s how it’s supposed to be,” an excited Tippecanoe coach Howard Garcia said. “Do you like that environment? The place was rocking. That’s how volleyball is played.”
Troy coach Michelle Owen agreed.
“This is the atmosphere that you want as a coach,” she said. “The gym was packed. We had a huge student section, Tipp had a huge student section. These are the games that you want. This is fun. This is what you play for, what high school sports is all about.”
The stakes definitely played a role in Wednesday’s district-like atmosphere.
The Devils improved to 9-0 overall and 7-0 in the Miami Valley League Miami Division standings, taking the early edge on Troy, which fell to 7-1 overall and 6-1 in the division. Last year, the two teams shared the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division championship, with Tippecanoe’s four-set win at home late in the season snapping the Trojans’ lengthy division winning streak, though they still claimed a share of their seventh straight title.
“I think it does, because you now know that you can go in and play at that level, with the team that has been the queen of the mountain (Troy),” Garcia said when asked if last year’s win had any bearing on Wednesday’s atmosphere. “They’re a very good program, and it gives you a little more of an edge. And now in conference play this year, now we have the edge.”
And in the end, Tippecanoe’s fast starts made the difference.
Corinn Siefring served the Devils out to an early 8-4 lead in the first set with a four-point run that included two aces, and after Troy cut the lead to 18-17, Siefring began another four-point run with an ace, and that gave Tippecanoe the cushion it needed. And in Set 2, Tippecanoe again built an early 8-3 advantage and led by as many as six at 17-11, but the Trojans cut the deficit to only two at 21-19 only to have the Devils close out the game on a Siefring kill to take a 2-0 lead.
“We started out sluggish in the first two sets, and our serve receive wasn’t stellar,” Owen said. “We weren’t really doing the things we’d hoped to do in the scouting report, and we got down five or six points in both sets, and that’s hard to make up. Tipp was just doing a good job of covering when we blocked. They made good adjustments, and we weren’t responding well to adverse situations in those first two sets.”
After that, though, Troy began to fight back.
Tippecanoe led 15-14 after a Siefring ace in the third, but back-to-back kills by Brianna Slusher and an ace by Lauren Schmitz gave Troy the lead. Slusher then ran off five straight points, including three aces, to give Troy a 23-16 lead and the Trojans closed out the set to stay alive. And in the fourth, Tippecanoe never held a lead as the Trojans took over early on the strength of a combined six kills by Schmitz and Kate Orban, and though Siefring led a charge late with four kills and an ace of her own, Troy closed out the set 25-23 to force a decisive final set.
“We challenged our passers in Sets 3 and 4 to step up their game, get a better quality first touch, and we did that,” Owen said. “We got to the point where we could involve all of our weapons offensively, use our middles a little more, and I felt Tipp started to get a little tired because we were putting the pressure on them.”
The Devils responded, though.
“I think we were getting a little stressed, because we had not lost a set the entire season,” Garcia said. “This was the first time a team has pushed us, made us work a little extra. So when the girls calmed down, in Game 5, we made a little switch and started with Rachel (Wildermuth) setting to bring (Ashley) Aselage to the front row and have three blockers against their big attacker, Schmitz. And that panned out much better. And I think the difference in that Game 5 was that their serve receive broke down and ours did not.”
With the score tied 2-2, Alaina Titley strung together four straight serves, including one ace, to give Tippecanoe a 6-2 lead that it would not relinquish. Troy got to within one at 7-6 and then two as late as 12-10, but a kill by Wildermuth, a block by Aselage and Olivia Newbourn and a kill by Titley closed out the match.
“In Set 5, we know how important it is to jump out to that fast lead, and we just didn’t do it,” Owen said. “We got down 6-2, and just like all night, we weren’t able to make up that deficit. We got it within two but never could quite break that threshold.
Siefring led the Devils with 15 kills, five aces and 14 digs on the night. Wildermuth added 10 kills, nine blocks, two aces and 18 assists, Aselage had seven kills and six blocks, Molly Achtenberg had three blocks, Emily Graham had 18 assists, Abby Hughes had 25 digs and two aces and Titley had 16 digs.
Schmitz had 19 kills to lead Troy along with four aces, 14 digs and four blocks. Slusher added nine kills, three aces, three digs and seven blocks, Kate Orban had nine kills, eight digs, a block and two assists, Carly Pfieffer had seven kills, two digs and three blocks, Anna Boezi had three kills, five digs and a block, Hallie Westmeyer had two kills and a block and Morgan Baber had two kills, 38 assists, two aces, seven digs and a block. Emmie Jackson had 25 digs and three assists, Morgan Kaiser had eight digs, an ace and five assists and Brennah Hutchinson had eight digs.
Tippecanoe travels to West Clermont Saturday, while Troy travels to Stebbins on Tuesday. And while there’s still plenty of time between now and the second meeting between the teams, everyone is already looking forward to the rematch on Oct. 2 in Troy — particularly if the atmosphere will be the same.
“We have some really good road tests between now and then, so we’re hoping we can improve and maybe go four or five with a couple really good opponents like Centerville and Versailles. These are the games that prepare you,” Owen said. “Hopefully we can get better between now and then and bring this same environment back when we get to play them at our place,”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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