By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
CENTERVILLE — When the Troy volleyball team fell behind 2-0 against Beavercreek in the Division I district semifinal match Tuesday, there wasn’t even the slightest hint of panic in the Trojan huddle.
After playing in four five-set matches this season, including rallying from a 2-0 deficit against a defending state champion to win, the Trojans knew nothing was over.
And Troy, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, battled all the way back against the eighth-seeded Beavers Tuesday at Centerville High School, winning the D-I district semifinal 22-25, 16-25, 25-18, 25-19, 15-12 to advance to its third consecutive district final and improve to 22-2 on the season.
Troy’s penchant for five-setters this year paid off Tuesday night. The Trojans’ first one came in the first meeting against division rival Tippecanoe in early September, where they rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force a fifth set but could not get over the hump, losing 3-2. A week later at defending D-III state champion Versailles, Troy came all the way back from down 2-0 to win 3-2. The next week at Centerville, Troy took a 2-0 lead only to lose 3-2, and in its second meeting against Tippecanoe, Troy fought back from down 2-1 to win in five.
“All of the different five-set situations we’ve been in this year, I think that did help us,” Troy volleyball coach Michelle Owen said. “We told the girls we’ve been here before.
“We told the girls this was just like Versailles. Only against Versailles, we lost the first set 25-6 and were playing godawful — we at least had a few positive things going for us today. So we thought, okay, if we can keep those positives and turn around some other things more and more each set, hopefully we can get something going in the third — and we did that.”
On Tuesday, the first set was fairly even throughout, with Troy trailing 22-20 and 24-22 before Beavercreek (14-11) — which Troy defeated 3-0 back on Sept. 28 in the regular season — put it away to go up 1-0. And in the second, Troy was within one, down 13-12, before Beavercreek’s Emily Corbitt went on an eight-point service run to stake the Beavers out to a 22-12 lead and put the Trojans’ back against the wall, down 2-0.
And that was when Troy’s seniors decided they weren’t going to lose.
“I hope that that was kind of the challenge for them,” Owen said. “Obviously, they wanted to get back to the district final. That was a huge goal that they had at the beginning of the season. And after Set 1 went the way it did, I told them it was on their shoulders, just like it was with Tipp. This will go one of two ways: we’ll either be done, or you can get back there. I can’t play for you. I can give you the tools, but you have to be the ones that go out there and create your own energy and momentum and make the plays.”
Kate Orban and Lauren Schmitz both had four kills and an ace in the third set, giving Troy the jump-start it needed. A four-point service run by Schmitz late gave the Trojans a 23-16 lead, and a thunderous kill by Orban closed the set out to keep Troy alive.
“We had people that started to step up,” Owen said. “Kate, she played the game of her career tonight. She was able to put the ball in places that we needed her to. And that sparked our drive, because we had some other people struggling, and she kind of gave us the lift we needed in Set 3. And people started to follow.”
That trend continued in the fourth, with Schmitz tallying four kills and two aces — including an eight-point service run that gave Troy a 15-9 lead. An ace by Orban capped off a three-point run and gave Troy a 22-12 lead, Carly Pfieffer added four kills in the set and Brianna Slusher closed it out with a kill to force a fifth set.
“Their serve receive really broke down in that fourth set,” Owen said. “We were finding all of their weaknesses to pick apart, and they really couldn’t find an answer in serve receive. They had to blow both timeouts early, and that helped us. And even when they went on a little run, we had such a cushion that it didn’t really affect us.”
And in the fifth, Beavercreek jumped out in front 4-2, and led as late as 6-5, but a four-point service run by Schmitz — capped off by a kill by Orban — gave the Trojans a 13-8 lead, and Troy iced it from there to complete the comeback.
“I felt like we had really good momentum after that fourth set,” Owen said. “We just had the vibes going for us. And the girls are obviously well conditioned, and we’re still doing the drills that help prepare us for those situations. I think we just wore them down more and more each set.”
Four Trojans had 10 or more kills on the night, led by Schmitz’s 15 and Orban’s 14. Slusher and Pfieffer had 10 apiece, Anna Boezi had six, Hallie Westmeyer had two and Morgan Baber had one. Schmitz added five aces, 11 digs and a block, Orban added four aces, four digs and three blocks, Pfieffer had six blocks and four digs, Slusher had an ace, three blocks and two digs and Boezi had four blocks.
Baber finished with 51 assists, an ace, seven digs and a block, Emmie Jackson had 26 digs, two aces and an assist, Ella Furlong had eight digs, Brennah Hutchinson had three digs and Genna Coleman had two digs.
Next up, Troy will face Mount Notre Dame in the district championship match at 3 p.m. Saturday at Butler High School.
“It’s awesome,” Owen said. “I’m proud of the girls, proud of the resilience they showed tonight. It’s one of the things we’ve been talking about all season, is our ability to find a way when it gets tough. We found a way against Tipp, we found a way in that Versailles match, and this group has been really resilient. I’m most happy for those eight seniors, because they really wanted this and worked for it.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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